Arkansas Jewish History
Jewish participation in Arkansas life dates from 1820. One year after Arkansas was organized as a territory in 1819, Abraham Bloch moved to Arkansas with his family. Over time he established himself as leading member of Arkansas' social, economic and political life. Bloch's family traced their Jewish history to Richmond, Virginia's Kahal Kadosh Beit Shalome, in the mid 18th century. He was a founding member of Shangarai Chasset in New Orleans. Jewish Arkansans tended to settle in many small Arkansas towns. It was not until the mid 19th century that Jewish population grew large enough to establish permanent houses of worship in Pine Bluff and Little Rock.
Concordia Hall and Jewish Life in Little Rock
From 1882 to 1887, an ornate two-story space on the second floor of this building served as the social hall for the Concordia Association – an organization established in 1864 to help Jewish immigrant families adapt to their new lives in Arkansas. Despite religious segregation that prohibited Jews from belonging to most community-wide social organizations, many non-Jewish groups also used Concordia Hall for events.
Brothers Jacob, Hyman and Levi Mitchell from Galicia became the first Jewish settlers in Little Rock in 1830. The establishment of Congregation B’nai Israel in Arkansas in 1866 affirmed the American principles of freedom of religion and assembly. At that time, more than 200 Jewish families lived in Little Rock, with most of their businesses located in this downtown area.
Although statistically small, Little Rock’s Jewish population has provided leaders in the business, educational, and philanthropic life of Little Rock, including the revitalization of the River Market District, which was aided by the Ottenheimer Foundation.
This marker was placed with assistance from the Jewish American Society for Historic Preservation and Temple B’Nai Israel.