- Associated Press - Friday, June 10, 2016

JOPLIN, Mo. (AP) - Retiree Roberta Shilane lights candles most Friday nights to mark the start of Shabbat, the Jewish weekly period of rest and prayer that begins at sundown on Friday and can end with smelling sweet spices and lighting a braided candle on Saturday night.

Shilane, who traces her roots to a great-grandfather who served Czar Alexander II, is president of Joplin’s United Hebrew Congregation, The Joplin Globe (http://bit.ly/1sv6XM5 ) reported.

Perhaps 22 dues-paying families belong to the congregation today, down from a peak of about 200 Jewish families during World War II and immediately afterward. An estimated 100 Jewish people live in Joplin, according to the most recent estimates from the American Jewish Yearbook.

“There was a time when we had a lot of kids in the religious school,” said Shilane, who taught Spanish at Pittsburg (Kansas) State University. “People come here, and they’ll go. They’ll stay for a year or two and then move on.”

Board member Alan Wippman said the congregation is changing from one where the members were descendants of European Jews who founded the temple to a congregation where about one-fourth of those 22 families are converts. Three children are expected to be enrolled in Sunday school in the fall.

“We’re a very vibrant small congregation,” Wippman said. “We have our own temple. We have social functions. We’re constantly doing things to involve the community.”

Small population

While Joplin’s Jewish community hangs on - and next weekend will celebrate the centennial of the construction of its temple at 702 S. Sergeant Ave. - others communities have not fared as well.

Nationwide, smaller Jewish communities are struggling, said Ira Sheskin, a geography professor at the University of Miami in Florida and one of the editors of the American Jewish Yearbook.

About 64,275 people - or 1 percent of Missouri’s population - is Jewish, but most of them live in St. Louis. About 16,000 Jews live in the Kansas City area. Springfield has an estimated 300 Jewish residents, Columbia has 400 and Jefferson City has 100.

Cape Girardeau, Kennett and Sedalia have a combined total of about 75.

Communities such as Joplin don’t always have a synagogue with a religious school to attract and keep Orthodox Jews, who are more observant, or a mikvah, a ritual bath used by married woman of childbearing age.

Jews, like Americans overall, are also less observant religiously than they used to be, according to a 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C.

“It’s very difficult, particularly once a Jewish community falls below 100, to maintain the Jewish institutions,” Sheskin said.

Early presence

Being Jewish can also sometimes be challenging in Joplin.

“Being in the Joplin area reminds me a little bit of living in Japan,” said Jonathan Dresner, an associate history professor at Pittsburg State University. “It’s not really anti-Semitism, but sheer lack of knowledge.”

Jewish settlers were in the Joplin area before the city was founded in 1873, including Civil War veterans William Lowenstein, who fought on the Confederate side and settled southwest of Jasper, and liquor merchant Samuel Landauer, who fought for the Union.

Herman Weiler’s family ran a clothing store in Joplin. Weiler, who moved to Galena, Kansas, was the chief at Galena’s fire department in the early 1900s. Alexander Goldstein opened a clothing store in Carthage. Joplin’s City Hall is now in a six-story building that originally housed Newman’s Department Store, opened by Jewish merchants Albert Newman and Gabe Newburger.

Area Jews turned to the same architect who designed the department store, Austin Allen, to design their temple. The design is said to have been influenced by a trip that Albert’s brother, Sol Newman, and Newburger made to Istanbul, where they saw Hagia Sofia, a mosque that originally was a Christian church. Once the largest cathedral in the world, it was famous for its dome.

The temple, built in 1916, had a copper dome and a minaret. The sanctuary can seat about 130 people, and a pipe organ was installed to accompany the choir.

Area events

Jewish families from as far away as Fort Scott, Kansas, come to Joplin to attend services on Friday night and so their children can learn Hebrew on Sunday morning. The oldest temple member, Dena Ander, who owns Ander’s Shoe Store in Miami, Oklahoma, is 101.

Newspaper clippings and synagogue photos tell of typical temple happenings. There were bar and bat mitvahs, the celebrations that marks when a boy or girl is considered an adult under Jewish law. Couples married under a chuppah, or canopy, which symbolizes the home they would plan together. Seders, the ritual meal at Passover, were held. Members gathered at Shoal Creek on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, to symbolically cast off their sins by tossing bread in the water.

The temple is reform, meaning most members don’t observe Jewish dietary laws that forbid eating meat and milk products together. Members drive on Shabbat, something that is forbidden among Orthodox congregations.

Over the years, temple membership slowly declined. The congregation has had student rabbis since 1967 to save money. When a fire damaged the temple in 1970, the dome was replaced with a flat roof.

A temple member bequeathed funds in his will for an endowment to cover expenses if temple membership wasn’t enough to cover maintenance for the building and other expenses.

“There aren’t enough people to share everything,” Wippman said. “You have four to six families who do most of the work. That’s difficult.”

The Orthodox congregation in Joplin folded decades ago. The ark once used to hold its Torahs is in a hallway of the temple.

Some cities, such as Sedalia and Hannibal, have Jewish cemeteries but no synagogue. The synagogue in Sedalia closed as its Jewish population shrank. The synagogue in Cape Girardeau was bought by a church. The temple in Hannibal closed in 1977 and merged with a temple in Quincy, Illinois.

The problem of shrinking numbers of Jews in small towns is widespread enough that there’s even a Jewish Community Legacy Project that has been established to help Jewish congregations in small towns fold if they’re too small to keep going.

Wippman doesn’t want to see this happen in Joplin.

“Who knows?” he said. “We may get lucky some day and have 20 Jewish families move here.”

0 comments

16 hrs ago

? ?

? Joplin Jewish community marks 100th anniversary of temple

Paul Teverow, board member for the United Hebrew Congregation Temple at 702 S. Sergeant Ave., points to photographs of congregations throughout various anniversaries. The temple turned 100 years old this year. Globe ‘ Laurie Sisk

?

? Joplin Jewish community marks 100th anniversary of temple

A 1913 photograph of the first confirmation class for the United Hebrew Congregation, taken before the temple was constructed, sits inside the United Hebrew Congregation Temple at 702 S. Sergeant Ave. The temple turned 100 years old this year. Globe ‘ Laurie Sisk

?

? Joplin Jewish community marks 100th anniversary of temple

The Five Books of Moses sit in the sanctuary behind a large wooden enclosure inside the United Hebrew Congregation Temple at 702 S. Sergeant Ave. The temple turned 100 years old this year. Globe ‘ Laurie Sisk

?

? Joplin Jewish community marks 100th anniversary of temple

Paul Teverow, board member for the United Hebrew Congregation Temple at 702 S. Sergeant Ave., enters a door with a traditional Jewish greeting. The temple turned 100 years old this year. Globe ‘ Laurie Sisk

?

? Joplin Jewish community marks 100th anniversary of temple

A plaque inside the social hall at the United Hebrew Congregation Temple at 702 S. Sergeant Ave. thanks the couple who made the hall possible. The temple turned 100 years old this year. Globe ‘ Laurie Sisk

?

? Joplin Jewish community marks 100th anniversary of temple

A large wooden engraved enclosure (center) holds the The Five Books of Moses in the sanctuary of the United Hebrew Congregation Temple at 702 S. Sergeant Ave. The temple turned 100 years old this year. Globe ‘ Laurie Sisk

?

? Joplin Jewish community marks 100th anniversary of temple

Photographs of all 55 rabbis who have led worship at the United Hebrew Congregation Temple at 702 S. Sergeant Ave. sit inside Solomon Hall inside the temple. The temple turned 100 years old this year. Globe ‘ Laurie Sisk

?

? Joplin Jewish community marks 100th anniversary of temple

?

? Joplin Jewish community marks 100th anniversary of temple

A cookbook, published in 1912 by the Hebrew Ladies’ Aid Society of Joplin, sits inside a bookcase at the United Hebrew Congregation Temple at 702 S. Sergeant Ave. The temple turned 100 years old this year. Globe ‘ Laurie Sisk

?

? Joplin Jewish community marks 100th anniversary of temple

A plaque inside the United Hebrew Congregation Temple at 702 S. Sergeant Ave., honors those congregation members who served in WWII. The temple turned 100 years old this year. Globe ‘ Laurie SiskSolomon Hall

?

? Joplin Jewish community marks 100th anniversary of temple

The United Hebrew Congregation Temple at 702 S. Seargeant Ave. turned 100 years old this year. Globe ‘ Laurie Sisk

?

? Joplin Jewish community marks 100th anniversary of temple

A look inside the sanctuary of the United Hebrew Congregation Temple at 702 S. Sergeant Ave. The temple turned 100 years old this year. Globe ‘ Laurie Sisk

.

0

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Pinterest Email

share image

Retiree Roberta Shilane lights candles most Friday nights to mark the start of Shabbat, the Jewish weekly period of rest and prayer that begins at sundown on Friday and can end with smelling sweet spices and lighting a braided candle on Saturday night.

Shilane, who traces her roots to a great-grandfather who served Czar Alexander II, is president of Joplin’s United Hebrew Congregation.

Perhaps 22 dues-paying families belong to the congregation today, down from a peak of about 200 Jewish families during World War II and immediately afterward. An estimated 100 Jewish people live in Joplin, according to the most recent estimates from the American Jewish Yearbook.

“There was a time when we had a lot of kids in the religious school,” said Shilane, who taught Spanish at Pittsburg (Kansas) State University. “People come here, and they’ll go. They’ll stay for a year or two and then move on.”

Board member Alan Wippman said the congregation is changing from one where the members were descendants of European Jews who founded the temple to a congregation where about one-fourth of those 22 families are converts. Three children are expected to be enrolled in Sunday school in the fall.

“We’re a very vibrant small congregation,” Wippman said. “We have our own temple. We have social functions. We’re constantly doing things to involve the community.”

Small population

While Joplin’s Jewish community hangs on - and next weekend will celebrate the centennial of the construction of its temple at 702 S. Sergeant Ave. - others communities have not fared as well.

Nationwide, smaller Jewish communities are struggling, said Ira Sheskin, a geography professor at the University of Miami in Florida and one of the editors of the American Jewish Yearbook.

About 64,275 people - or 1 percent of Missouri’s population - is Jewish, but most of them live in St. Louis. About 16,000 Jews live in the Kansas City area. Springfield has an estimated 300 Jewish residents, Columbia has 400 and Jefferson City has 100.

Cape Girardeau, Kennett and Sedalia have a combined total of about 75.

Communities such as Joplin don’t always have a synagogue with a religious school to attract and keep Orthodox Jews, who are more observant, or a mikvah, a ritual bath used by married woman of childbearing age.

Jews, like Americans overall, are also less observant religiously than they used to be, according to a 2013 survey by the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C.

“It’s very difficult, particularly once a Jewish community falls below 100, to maintain the Jewish institutions,” Sheskin said.

Early presence

Being Jewish can also sometimes be challenging in Joplin.

“Being in the Joplin area reminds me a little bit of living in Japan,” said Jonathan Dresner, an associate history professor at Pittsburg State University. “It’s not really anti-Semitism, but sheer lack of knowledge.”

Jewish settlers were in the Joplin area before the city was founded in 1873, including Civil War veterans William Lowenstein, who fought on the Confederate side and settled southwest of Jasper, and liquor merchant Samuel Landauer, who fought for the Union.

Herman Weiler’s family ran a clothing store in Joplin. Weiler, who moved to Galena, Kansas, was the chief at Galena’s fire department in the early 1900s. Alexander Goldstein opened a clothing store in Carthage. Joplin’s City Hall is now in a six-story building that originally housed Newman’s Department Store, opened by Jewish merchants Albert Newman and Gabe Newburger.

Area Jews turned to the same architect who designed the department store, Austin Allen, to design their temple. The design is said to have been influenced by a trip that Albert’s brother, Sol Newman, and Newburger made to Istanbul, where they saw Hagia Sofia, a mosque that originally was a Christian church. Once the largest cathedral in the world, it was famous for its dome.

The temple, built in 1916, had a copper dome and a minaret. The sanctuary can seat about 130 people, and a pipe organ was installed to accompany the choir.

Area events

Jewish families from as far away as Fort Scott, Kansas, come to Joplin to attend services on Friday night and so their children can learn Hebrew on Sunday morning. The oldest temple member, Dena Ander, who owns Ander’s Shoe Store in Miami, Oklahoma, is 101.

Newspaper clippings and synagogue photos tell of typical temple happenings. There were bar and bat mitvahs, the celebrations that marks when a boy or girl is considered an adult under Jewish law. Couples married under a chuppah, or canopy, which symbolizes the home they would plan together. Seders, the ritual meal at Passover, were held. Members gathered at Shoal Creek on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, to symbolically cast off their sins by tossing bread in the water.

The temple is reform, meaning most members don’t observe Jewish dietary laws that forbid eating meat and milk products together. Members drive on Shabbat, something that is forbidden among Orthodox congregations.

Over the years, temple membership slowly declined. The congregation has had student rabbis since 1967 to save money. When a fire damaged the temple in 1970, the dome was replaced with a flat roof.

A temple member bequeathed funds in his will for an endowment to cover expenses if temple membership wasn’t enough to cover maintenance for the building and other expenses.

“There aren’t enough people to share everything,” Wippman said. “You have four to six families who do most of the work. That’s difficult.”

The Orthodox congregation in Joplin folded decades ago. The ark once used to hold its Torahs is in a hallway of the temple.

Some cities, such as Sedalia and Hannibal, have Jewish cemeteries but no synagogue. The synagogue in Sedalia closed as its Jewish population shrank. The synagogue in Cape Girardeau was bought by a church. The temple in Hannibal closed in 1977 and merged with a temple in Quincy, Illinois.

The problem of shrinking numbers of Jews in small towns is widespread enough that there’s even a Jewish Community Legacy Project that has been established to help Jewish congregations in small towns fold if they’re too small to keep going.

Wippman doesn’t want to see this happen in Joplin.

“Who knows?” he said. “We may get lucky some day and have 20 Jewish families move here.”

Temple tour

The United Hebrew Congregation will be open from 1 to 4 p.m. Sunday, June 12, for tours in partnership with Historic Murphysburg Preservation. Traditional Jewish food such as challahs, or braided bread, will be available. Visitors can also ask about the Jewish religion, weddings and religious customs. Donations are welcome.

Tags

Judaism

0 comments

___

Information from: The Joplin (Mo.) Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide