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Funds being raised to restore Jewish temple in Alabama

July 2, 2019

SELMA, Ala. (AP) — Efforts are underway to raise funds to restore a Jewish temple in Alabama.

Temple Mishkan Israel has sat along Broad Street in Selma since 1899, WSFA-TV reported.

Ronnie Leet, the temple’s president, said he had his Bar Mitzvah there at age 13 and his sister was married there.

“They built this beautiful structure in six months,” Leet recalled.

Leet said he remembers when Selma’s Jewish community was thriving. The city had three Jewish mayors and, at its peak, the community included between 350 and 450 families, he said.

And though those numbers have significantly dwindled — there are just four remaining local active members in the congregation — Leet said they’re focused on ensuring the Jewish legacy continues to be told to future generations.

“We want to have it as a showcase for tourist groups coming through to tell about our Jewish community of the past,” said Leet.

To make that dream a reality the 120-year-old structure must be restored. The building needs a new roof, updated knob and tube wiring, and foundation repairs.

“I vividly remember walking in and having my breath taken away. It is really such a treasure,” said Amy Milligan, an assistant professor of Jewish studies at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.

Milligan is writing a book about the temple and helped the group launch a GoFundMe page .

“They have a very unique and special story to tell because of their roots in Selma,” said Milligan. “This shows interest people all over the country have.”

For the congregation, seeing in just weeks thousands of dollars donated has given them renewed hope.

“It has taken some fire to get us moving forward and we have it now. I think our future is much brighter than it was one year ago,” Leet said.

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Information from: WSFA-TV, http://www.wsfa.com/

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