Interest ran so high for a Jewish History Tour Saturday that the Utah State Historical Society had to book a second bus.
The tour began with a visit to the current Salt Lake synagogue, Kol Ami, where the group observed Saturday services conducted by Rabbi Frederick Wenger and Cantor Lawrence Loeb. Kol Ami administrator Ralph Tannebaum explained objects in the sanctuary, such as the eternal light and the ark where the Torah scrolls are stored.Robert Goldberg, history professor at the University of Utah, then gave a lecture on the Jewish settlement of Clarion, Sanpete County, based on research for his book "Back to the Soil: The Jewish Settlers of Clarion, Utah, and Their World."
The back-to-the-land movement paralleled the kibbutz and moshav settlements in Israel. Goldberg detailed the adversities the settlers faced with marginal land, water shortages and a short growing season.
While problems over irrigation water arose later, Goldberg described the good relationship between the Jewish settlers and their LDS neighbors. "The Mormons welcomed the Jews as biblical brothers with a common ancestor: Joseph. Mormons saw the Jews as having the same chosen destiny as themselves - as having undergone the same persecutions, like the Midwestern pogroms that drove Mormons to Utah," Goldberg said.
The former B'nai Israel Temple at Second South and Fourth East was visited and a tour conducted by the current co-owner, Ron Hendrikson. Built in 1891, the synagogue is said to have been patterned after the Great Synagogue in Berlin. Hendrikson's firm, Office Pavilion-Hendrikson-Butler, has renovated the building and made a showpiece of soaring white space lighted by the magnificent stained glass windows. "You should be here in the late afternoons," he told the group, "it's a light show that changes every few minutes. There is even a beam of light that shoots across the sanctuary like the scene in `Raiders of the Lost Ark,' " he said.
Conservative Jews broke away and formed the Montefiore Synagogue in 1903. Edward Eisen, who retired after 45 years as head of Utah Barrel Co., told the tour group that "the best 50 years of my life were spent here." The old synagogue at 355 S. Third East is now home to the Metro Fellowship of the Assembly of God Church. Eisen told how a third synagogue, Schari Tzedek, existed from 1918 to 1928 at Second East between Eighth and Ninth South. The building now houses the Veterans of Foreign Wars.