Checking in with Montana Jewish Project 1 year after purchasing Temple Emanu-El

Temple Emanu-El
Temple Emanu-El Historic
Posted at 6:07 PM, Aug 28, 2023
and last updated 2023-08-29 12:35:55-04

HELENA — It’s been almost exactly one year since the Montana Jewish Project bought back Temple Emanu-El

“We're just so grateful for the community and all the people that support us. Whether it's showing up at events, whether it's just being, you know, quiet partners and allies, we're incredibly grateful for that,” says MJP Co-Founder and President of the Board of the MJP, Rebecca Stanfel.

Montana’s oldest synagogue, Temple Emanu-El, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Built in 1891 and sold to the city of Helena in 1935 for $1, the building eventually landed in the hands of the diocese to be used as administrative offices until it was sold on August 25th, 2022, to the Montana Jewish Project.

The local, international, and interfaith support for this purchase was undeniable. Multiple businesses, churches, and individuals helped make this transfer of property a reality.

Since moving into the building in October of 2022, MJP has held 14 separate events in the space.

Some of those include hosting Consul General of Israel, Marco Sermoneta, a get-together for legislators, and important Jewish events such as Passover Seder and Hannukah.

Stanfel says that this space is unique because it creates a physical link between the past and present in a way that not just any building could.

“It feels so important because it's anchoring the community back to the past and the values and traditions of the past,” says Stanfel.

And like with any structure from the 19th century, there are repairs that need to be made to keep the building sound. Recently, the building required a new roof. There is currently a fundraiser for $100,000 in order to help pay for the recent construction.

Despite record antisemitic incidents in the US in 2022, Stanfel still maintains a lens of positivity and sees the good that has helped make this buyback a reality.

“So, I think we need to be really mindful that there are increased concerns and activities, but at the same time we still live in a place where people, you know, cherish people in their community and they support those broader values that do not include hate,” says Stanfel.