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Before This Small Temple Closes, It’s Giving Its Torah To Another Community In Montana

A small temple over 95 years old will be closing its doors soon — but not before it donates its Torah scroll to a congregation in Montana, the St. Louis Jewish week reported.

Temple Israel was once a community of 150 families that served southwestern Illinois Reform Jews with weekly services and a religious school. It came to occupy a small nondescript house on across the street from a strip mall in Alton, Illinois, population 28,000, about 35 minutes from St. Louis. Today the house is for sale, the congregation has only a dozen members and it is set to disband soon.

It is donating one of its two Torahs to a small Reform congregation in Missoula, Montana: Har Shalom. That community has been vigilant against white supremacist activity in the state after the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer threatened a Jewish family in Whitefish, Mont., about a two-and-a-half hour drive away.

On August 16, at an emotional Friday evening Kabbalat Shabbat service, Temple Israel prepared to say farewell to the Torah scroll.

“This is a joyous moment because we will help a congregation thrive, and at the same time a sad moment because a Torah will be leaving us,” Rabbi Lane Steinger told the congregation.

One of the members told the congregation that Har Shalom had agreed to incorporate the name of Temple Israel into its list of yartzeits: the list of death anniversaries the synagogue reads each week.

Temple Israel will continue meeting weekly until its building is sold.

Ari Feldman is a staff writer at the Forward. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @aefeldman

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