Colorado Springs News, Sports & Business

110 years in the making: Springs synagogue reflects on past as new year begins

MARK BARNA Updated: September 5, 2010 at 12:00 am

A scroll at a Colorado Springs synagogue has deep meaning for local Jewish historian Perry B. Bach.

The yellowing scroll was used 110 years ago at the first Rosh Hashana service in Colorado Springs, he said. On Wednesday, Rabbi Mel Glazer will read from the late 19th-century scroll during Rosh Hashana service at Temple Shalom.

“It shows the continuity of the Colorado Springs Jewish community,” Bach said of the scroll.

Rosh Hashana, which marks the beginning of the Jewish new year, ushers in 10 days of repentance for Jews, culminating in Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement.

“I think about the last year, the mistakes I’ve made, the people I have wronged, and my relationship with God,” Bach said of the observances, known collectively as the High Holy Days.

During this year’s observances, Bach will also be reflecting on local Jewish history.

The Temple Shalom scroll contains the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. It was handwritten in Hebrew in black ink on parchment in the 1890s by a New York Jewish scribe. It took about one year for the scribe to write it.

The parchment sheets were then sewn together with thread made from sheep ligament and attached to wooden rollers.

Twenty-one Orthodox Jews paid for the scroll’s creation on Aug. 15, 1900, according to a document. Cost was $47.

A scroll created in the same laborious way today would cost about $50,000, Glazer said.

The Temple Shalom scroll was first used by an Orthodox congregation meeting in a Springs house, Bach said.

In 1911 the scroll was obtained by the Sons of Israel, a Conservative synagogue on South Cascade Avenue. Sixty years later, the synagogue merged with Temple Beth El, a Reform group. The resulting congregation was named Temple Shalom.

The scroll is displayed during the High Holy Days services every year. Sometimes its 150 feet of Torah parchment is unfurled along the synagogue’s walls during Rosh Hashana.

Over the past century, the Jewish population in Colorado Springs has grown from about 100 to 5,000 people, with some 500 families practicing the faith at three congregations

In recent years, anti-Semitism has not been a big issue in Colorado Springs. But decades ago it was problem.

Adele Obodov, a Temple Shalom member since 1952, says that in the 1950s, Jews weren’t allowed to be members at certain country clubs, and some real estate agents wouldn’t take Jews as clients.

“It was not an easy town to be Jewish in,” Obodov, 84, said.

Jews found solace in religious community, especially during the High Holy Days.

Even today, many Jews who don’t attend Shabbat services and consider themselves non-practicing participate in the High Holy Days.

For Bach, the observances and the temple scroll represent the longevity of Judaism, now in its 5,771st year, according to the Jewish calendar.

“It is moving when I realize that I am saying the same prayers, observing the same holidays, and participating in the same rituals that other Jews have observed for thousands of years,” Bach said.

To learn more of how the Jewish scrolls are created, go to Barna’s blog, “The Pulpit,” at www.thepulpit.freedomblogging.com.

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