Congregation Anshe Sphard
Anshe Sphard (also known as the Romanische Shul, 2211 Alamo St.) In 1906, Jews from the old Austro-Hungarian Empire, many from Roumania, organized a synagogue called the First Austro-Roumanian Congregation. The group was chartered in 1907 as an Orthodox congregation using the Sephardi style of service and renamed Anshe Sphard. The group, founded by Charles Kaufman, president, Salomon Ely, vice-president and Morris Friedman, secretary, initially met in private homes. Their first sefer Torah was kept in the home of Isaac Seltzer on Caroline Street. As early as 1910 the small congregation met at 133 Alamo Street, listed in the city directory as the First Roumanian Congregation. In 1913, they remodeled the home into a synagogue, with mosquito netting separating men’s and women’s seating. Known informally as the Roumanishe Shul, the congregation stayed there until 1919. Later, the congregation moved with Jewish population to South Dallas and the synagogue was purchased by a Hispanic Baptist church, Primera Iglesia Bautista.
When most of its members moved out of the neighborhood, the congregation followed them to a house in The Cedars area. In 1935, the 40 members of Anshe Sphard moved to a new building which had formerly housed a telephone exchange on Park Row in south Dallas. While Anshe Sphard was always a small congregation that never had a rabbi or religious school, the Ladies Auxiliary was very dedicated and actively staged dinners, bazaars and picnics to raise funds. Without a rabbi, Anshe Sphard always depended on laymen to lead services. Charles Kaufman served as lay leader of the congregation for many years.
The majority of the new residents were Roman Catholic; however, some were also Protestant, and evangelical churches and missions were established to serve this community. In 1919, Primera Iglesia Bautista acquired 2211 Alamo—the same building that had once been Anshe Sphard—and the congregation now had a church that featured the Star of David in its windows and a home that lasted until 1926.
Today, nearly 100 years later, Primera Iglesia Bautista is located near Royal Lane & Midway Rd in the northwestern portion of Dallas – its previous location on Walnut Hill was totally destroyed by the tornado of 2019. Anshe Sphard merged with Shearith Israel in 1956. 2211 Alamo no longer exists; the site was located in-between what is now the Perot Museum of Nature and Science and El Fenix Restaurant. However, its history is symbolic of the early beginnings of multiculturalism in Dallas and is a tribute to those who were willing to respect the faiths of others.
As of November 3, 2023, there is a Texas State Historic Marker at Harry Hines Triangle Park dedicating the significance of this early relationship.