Our History

Congregation Agudas Achim was the realization of an early group of Peoria settlers, 18 in number, who in 1886, gathered to form and establish the first Traditional Orthodox Jewish Congregation in this part of the country. The house of worship was located at what is now State and South Jefferson Avenue. From that small beginning, the Congregation grew to be the largest Traditional Congregation in the state of Illinois, outside of Chicago. During the next decade of existence, the Congregation grew in numbers and moved to the building on Monson Street (now Kumpf Boulevard), between Fourth and Fifth Streets, currently occupied by Busey Bank, which is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

With an influx of newcomers to Peoria and the constant shifting of the Jewish population to the new area, the facilities of the Congregation became inadequate. In 1911, plans were made to erect a new synagogue on Sixth and Monson Streets, and it was completed a year later.

In 1936, the Congregation selected Rabbi Julius Hyatt, a graduate of the Rabbi Issac Elchanan Theological Seminary (presently known as Yeshiva University), as spiritual leader, a post that he held with distinction for 40 years. In 1938, movement of the Jewish community to the northern part of town led to the merger of Agudas Achim with another orthodox congregation, Ohav Shalom, which was the Orthodox congregation on the South Side for many years.

The pressing need for more and better facilities for the Synagogue, Hebrew school and all affiliated bodies, resulted in the purchasing of property at Perry and Fayette for those bodies and a Jewish Community Center. Before long, even the newly acquired facilities were unable to keep pace with the growth in school enrollment or with the expanding activities of all the Synagogue affiliates.

The post-war years saw a surge in the growth of the Jewish population of Peoria and with it, an increase in our membership. In 1952, land was purchased at the corner of War Memorial Drive and Sheridan Road to erect an edifice that would serve the congregation’s growing needs under one roof. In 1956, ground was broken for the building with most of the current congregation knew as home.

But the passing of time brings with it great change. The Jewish population of this city shrank, and resulted in a decreasing membership of our shul. In 1994, the building on Sheridan Road was sold. Anshai Emeth (the reform congregation of Peoria, which also has a long and rich history) was experiencing many of the same problems of our congregation. They invited Agudas Achim to share their building on University Street, a very central and convenient location for the Jewish population in general.

On Jan. 1, 2005, Agudas Achim finalized a sharing agreement with Anshai Emeth, resulting in a positive, productive and mutually beneficial relationship. In 2006, Agudas Achim converted the old library room into a beautiful chapel complete with new seating and a new Ark. We also converted a storage room into a kosher kitchen, which is used weekly for our Shabbat kiddushes which follow well-attended Shabbat services.

Our mission remains the same — to build and maintain a congregation as a Beit Knesset, Beit Midrash and Beit T’Fillah, a house of assembly, study and prayer. We are committed to the continuation of Traditional Judaism, its moral principles and behavior through the study of Torah, observance of Mitzvah and the support of the State of Israel.

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