By Elizabeth Moses and Annie Rivers
Sumter has a rich Jewish history, with the first Jewish immigrants arriving here from Charleston by 1815. From the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s, there was a steady Jewish presence in the town. However, as is the story in many small-town Southern communities, the latter half of the 20th century saw the congregation dwindle as younger generations left for bigger cities. The members of Temple Sinai were concerned about the future of their historic Moorish-style synagogue and its beautiful stained glass windows if the congregation ceased to exist.
Fortunately, a new partnership with the Sumter County Museum, located a half block from the synagogue, has created the perfect solution. In an effort spear-headed by temple members Roger Ackerman and Jay Schwartz, a long-term plan has been agreed upon. There is still a small congregation which will continue to use the temple sanctuary to conduct Friday night and holiday services. The Museum worked with designer HW Exhibits to develop a permanent exhibit about Jewish history in South Carolina and Sumter in the adjoining social hall. There is also a large section devoted to the Holocaust and Sumter’s ties to the Holocaust. The exhibit is designed with both permanent and rotating display sections, including oral history excerpts and a Holocaust reflection area.
The Center’s operating hours are Thursdays and Fridays, 1:00pm to 4:00pm and Saturdays, 10:00am to 1:00pm. For more information: www.sumtercountymuseum.org or museum phone 803-775-0908.
Gallery Photos: Courtesy of Sumter County Museum and Temple Sinai Jewish History Center