Before Congregation Beth Shalom
Before 1974, most activities of the Jewish community revolved around two organizations. Most women belonged to the Deborah Circle, established by 13 women on February 11, 1932 at the instigation of Dr. Sara Feder Keyfitz. The Deborah Circleraised funds to support Pioneer Women, a Zionist organization. In 1972, the Deborah Circleaffiliated with Hadassah. The men were members of B’nai B’rith Spinoza Lodge 1170. The original lodge charter was granted to a group of 28 men by District Grand Lodge No. 2 on the 18th day of December 1933.
Religious activities were coordinated by Dr. Isidore Keyfitz, a Professor of Semitic Studies at the Bible College, later the Missouri School of Religion. He also was Director of the Jewish Student Foundation. In 1947 a Hillel Foundation was approved for the University of Missouriin Columbia. Thereafter, religious activities were conducted by the Hillel Director.
The Hillel Foundation
The first Hillel Director was Rabbi Melvin Sands. The Missouri B’nai B’rith Hillel Council was incorporated in 1949 under a charter from the State of Missouri. It purchased a two-story house at 1107 University Avenue which became the Hillel House. Rabbi Sands was succeeded by Rabbis Morris Fishman and Abraham Pimontel. As Jewish student enrolment increased at the University, Stephens College and Columbia College, the Hillel House became too small for all the activities. A state-wide capital campaign began and on Sunday, December 7, 1969, the dedication ceremony for the newly built Danciger Hillel House was held.
The Creation of Congregation Beth Shalom
In 1972, the Mid-Missouri Jewish Community Council (MMJCC) was formed, with representatives from “recognized Jewish organizations in Mid-Missouri” including people from Jefferson City, Moberly and Sedalia. The purpose of the council was “to further the welfare of the Mid-Missouri Jewish community; to plan for the religious, philanthropic, social, cultural, and educational advancement of the Jewish community and to foster cooperation among local Jewish organizations and individuals.” In mid-October 1973, an Ad Hoc Committee of seven members of Spinoza Lodge discussed the relative inaction of the MMJCC, the fragmentation of Jewish organizations in Mid-Missouri and the needs of the community as a whole. On January 20, 1974, about 55 people met to discuss future action. Ralph Lowenstein moved (seconded by Judy Kay) that a temporary congregation should be formed. “An amendment was offered by Michael Kay and seconded by Marty Rosen to change the name to Congregation Beth Shalom.” The amendment passed.
On March 28, 1974, Michael A. Kay, Ingeborg G. Mauksch and Mitchell J. Rosenholtz signed the “Articles of Incorporation of a General Not For Profit Corporation for Congregation Beth Shalom of Mid Missouri”. The purpose was “to secure the development, pursuance, continuity and preservation of the Jewish Heritage and Religion by providing religious, educational, social, cultural and historical services for the Mid Missouri Community”. The articles were filed and a Certificate of Incorporation issued on April 3, 1974. Phoebe Goodman was elected the first President The first annual meeting took place on April 27, 1975with the signing of a decorative charter designed by Phyllis Davis. It was signed by 92 members. Rabbi Laurence D. Lauer, the Hillel Director, served as the first Congregation Rabbi.
Sharing with the Hillel Foundation
The congregation shared the Hillel Danciger building with the Hillel Foundation and contributed towards the operations and maintenance of the building as well as to the replacement of carpets and furniture. Rabbi Lauer was followed by Rabbis Paul Saiger and Harvey Rosenfeld. In 1993, there was intense interest in affiliating with either the orthodox, reform or reconstructionist movement. On June 11, 1994, 2 Tammuz 5754, Congregation Beth Shalom of Mid-Missouri became a duly affiliated member of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. The Congregation continued to share a Rabbi with the Hillel Foundation until 1997 when Rabbi Yossi Feintuch was induced to leave Curacao and become a full-time rabbi for this community. With the arrival of Rabbi Feintuch, the building was remodeled to provide an office for him.
After the untimely death of Joel Radman in 1992, a Radman Memorial Fund was established. This fund commissioned the construction of a walnut Ark, Torah table, lectern and Torah stands. Sanctuary chairs were purchased in February 1997 and a “Tree of Life” Parochet for the Arkand new Torah covers were dedicated on April 4, 1997.
When Temple Beth El in Sedalia closed, their Memorial Tablets, furnishings (pews, bimah lectern and chairs) and three Torah scrolls were donated to Congregation Beth Shalom in August 2001.
The New Synagogue and the Future
The congregation continued to grow. The Sunday Religious School overflowed and it became necessary to find extra space. Because most of the teachers were university students, the University permitted the school to use classrooms in the Middlebush building on University Avenue.
By 2000, the membership was more than 150 families, including those from Jefferson City, Middletown, Fulton, Mexico, and as far as Argyle in the south and Kirksville in the north.. There were over 90 children in Sunday school and Hebrew school. The congregation membership decided that it was time to obtain a separate home with adequate space. The Hartsook company was commissioned to do a feasibility study. A Capital Campaign Committee was formed and charged with raising funds for the project.
In December 2002, the purchase of the remaining portion of the Godfrey estate, 6.9 acres with a 2-story 5-bedroom house, barn, silo and shed at 500 West Green Meadows Road was finalized. The 90 year old farmhouse was remodeled and, in July 2003, the Congregation moved into its new home. Although the house was adequate for most Shabbos services, it could not hold enough people to accommodate special occasions, and still could not house our religious school in its entirety.
In 2005, Mel Solomon of Kansas City was commissioned to draw up plans for a new building. Plans fitting the “dream” were drawn up but considered too costly and revised to fit the anticipated revenues from the Capital Campaign. The final plans consisted of two rectangular wings containing space for administrative and school affairs joined by a large central communal area. Large windows permitted viewing the grounds with its many trees.
The Congregation Board decided to commission Septagon to construct a building, using a portion of the dimensions of the west wing of the Solomon plan, adjacent to the current building. The building, about 3,000 sq. ft. in area, was to contain four classrooms separated by movable partitions to permit its use for social functions such as Bar/Bat Mitvah celebrations. At the suggestion of Debbie Kaplan, the sanctuary would be moved into the new building with its current location becoming a classroom for the older students. The new building would be sited to allow for the addition of the rest of the original plan. The deadline for construction would be September 1, 2007 for the commencement of the new school semester. Meanwhile the displaced classes would take place in the Middlebush Building on the University campus. The preliminary design was too utilitarian and plain. The Building Construction Committee, chaired by David Brodsky, accepted the offer of Benyamin Schwarz, an architect and Professor at the University, to create an alternate design within the constraints of the budget allocated by the Congregation Board. His design, produced in less than two weeks, was endorsed by the committee and accepted by the Congregation Board.
According to City code, the land was not a “legal lot” and application had been made for establishment of Subdivision Shalom, a subdivision with a single lot. Finally, in early 2007, Subdivision Shalom was approved and recorded. In May, construction of the new building commenced and on May 20 a formal ground-breaking ceremony was held after the Congregation semi-annual meeting. In addition to the Congregation members, representatives of several Christian churches, the mosque, the Baha’i and the recently established Hindu Temple were present. There were addresses by the Mayor of Columbia, Darwin Hindman, by Rabbi Lane Steiger from United Reform Judaism, the Congregation President Joel Ray and Rabbi Yossi Feintuch, and a beautiful rendition of the song “Jerusalem of Gold” by Cecilia Keuffer. This was followed by the ceremonial ground-breaking by Phoebe Goodman and several other past presidents. The program concluded with a prolonged blast on a Shofar (ram’s horn) by David Davis.
Our new building was completed by the end of October, 2007, with a dedication and placing of the mezuzot October 28. Soon thereafter, the first of many Shabbat services was held, as were the first classes in our new home.
David M. Klachko