Texas’ Oldest Orthodox Synagogue Moved From Brenham to Austin

Attendance at the B’nai Abraham synagogue shrunk to almost zero. So it was moved, piece by piece, to a Jewish center in Austin.

By Filipa Rodrigues February 13, 2015 12:55 pm

Ken Herman has been tracking this story for over a year for the Austin American-Statesman.

“Like a lot of small towns in Texas, the Jewish populations dwindled, moved away, grew old and it (B’nai Abraham) really hasn’t been a functioning synagogue in a long time,” Herman said. “But a man there named of Leon Toubin, who is a civic leader a business man an all around mensch. He’s taken care of this building. But Leon Toubin is now 86 and he understands there’s probably not a next generation in his family who would care about it the way he cared about it and there really is no need for a synagogue in Brenham, Texas anymore.”

Each piece of the synagogue has made its way to Austin separately and, today, the pieces are scheduled to be reconnected at the campus.

“The first piece was lifted off the top of the roof I think it was about a 17,000 pound the top of the roof,” Herman says. “Then the second piece they took was the big bar – basically the building without the two roof parts stacked up on top. And the final part, the other part of the roof, got here I guess it was last week. One of the other interesting things on the biggest part, basically the building without the roof, and that’s a large piece and that was, Mr. Toubin was there for that. He had been sick and was not feeling well that day – he is 86 years old – his wife Mimi was there. They’re just lovely people. This was an emotional day he was watching this leave town.”

The work is far from done. With interior work and fundraising left to do, the process has already been expensive.

“Mr. Toubin has payed for a good deal for it himself,” Herman says. “He has done very well in business and I believe he has paid for this but other people have contributed. They could’ve built a building like this for far fewer dollars than it probably cost to move this building here and put it together but that’s not the point.”

This story was prepared with assistance by Victoria Garcia.