St. Thomas’ Hebrew Congregation is on the brink of a new era—an era built on over 200 years of tradition, and a legacy of love for this community.
"Even though our numbers have varied dramatically over time, our members are committed to maintaining a strong, Jewish tradition here on St. Thomas," said Trudie Prior, President, Hebrew Congregation. "By staying closely involved in and with our community, we become active participants in making St. Thomas a better place to live and work."
The Hebrew Congregation and the people of St. Thomas have been intertwined since the first Synagogue was constructed in 1796. Twice destroyed by fire, the Charlotte Amalie Jewish Synagogue was rebuilt both times with contributions from the people of St. Thomas (Jews and non-Jews) and donations from abroad.
The small, 203-year old congregation—now comprised of approximately 100 individuals–is the second oldest in the Western Hemisphere. Since 1833, its members have met weekly in the stately, Danish colonial structure on Synagogue Hill. But in July, the doors to the Synagogue were closed, signaling the start of a major project—a total restoration to counteract the negative effects of time and climate on the building and its contents. Upon completion in January, the Synagogue will appear as it did when first built in 1833.
"Once again, our members and the community are joining together to raise the $350,000 needed to make it happen," said Prior, "and we’ve had a wonderful response from individuals and congregations in both West Palm Beach and Atlanta as a result of local newspaper stories."
In addition to this renovation, the Hebrew Congregation is in the midst of two other significant projects. The "Antiques, Art and Collectibles Auction," planned for December 12 at the Old Stone Farmhouse at Mahogany Run, is hoping to raise $40,000 to help defray operating expenses—the rising costs of keeping the Synagogue open to the public. The congregation is also in the midst of a rabbinical search, and hopes to have a permanent rabbi by September 2000.
"Even though so much is going on in our congregation right now, it’s important we continue to meet the needs of this island’s very diverse Jewish community," said Prior. "And once our Synagogue re-opens its doors, visitors of all faiths can experience the wonder and awe of St. Thomas’ rich Jewish tradition."


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