Saturday, June 16, 2012

Friday night in Paducah

Curious about a Jewish community in Paducah, I did some research and found the remnants of a once-vibrant community that dates back to the Civil War.  The building is beautiful and there is an historical marker outside.




Summer services are at 5:30 and there is no rabbi.  Mala, the president of the congregation, led the brief service for the four of us who attended. They were so happy to see me that they couldn't stop thanking me for coming and gave me the honor of lighting the candles.

Although I am reform, I prefer the Hebrew for most of the prayers and remember them better when  there is a melody (which there wasn't).  Mala told me that 6 years ago when she moved here there were 25 people on a Friday night.  Most of them were old and many have since died. 


As in many places, the malls killed the individual retail businesses, leaving the downtown vacant. Because there are no cities nearby and there is neither industry nor corporate headquarters here, there are no jobs.  The kids leave for college and never come back because there is no work, so the only ones left are aging.  She said they will hang on as long as they can; this is the story in many small Southern towns.  The nearest viable congregation is in Carbondale, IL - an hour and a half away - and only because there is a university there. 
That's the story.  I feel that I did a mitzvah, but it left me feeling very sad.

7 comments:

Jo said...

What a blessing that you found this Temple and were able to attend. Your story made me sad too...we have the same situation in our 188 year old church. Looking forward to May 2013 when you come to Chapel Hill.

Rayna said...

Yes, the same thing happens with churches when the young people move away. I have seen churches (and synagogues) close or, if they are geographically not too far from each other, consolidate. Two Greek Orthodox churches in urban areas near me just consolidated and built a new huge building in the 'burbs near where many of their congregants had moved over the years. Nothing stays the same.

Karoda (nickname) said...

History is life and life is so bittersweet...

GerryART said...

Karoda says it right
Lovely post, Rayna
sets my mind meandering memories
hugs

pixetera said...

Long article in yesterday's Huffington Post that describes how some southern cities are addressing this issue: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/15/southern-jewish-recruit-population_n_1578825.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

Tami @ Lemon Tree Tales said...

This reminds me of the shul in Cork Ireland. It's been around for around 150 years but the community is dying. We flew over for Yom Kippur one year and it was very fortunate that we did as they needed my husband to make minyan. They too don't have a rabbi and Chabad in London sends young men for the service but one of the flights was delayed and they weren't able to fly when the flight was rescheduled. It's an orthodox shul and most visiting workers at the tech companies, Motorola etc, are usually reform so they don't attend. It was very sad.

Tami @ Lemon Tree Tales said...
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