Mormon Church Returns the Favor, Hosts Shabbat for Jews whose Temple was Destroyed

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Mormon Church extends the same generosity as their Jewish neighbors did over 50 years ago.

In March of 2014, the Temple Beth Sholom in Santa Ana, California, was the victim of an unexpected kitchen fire. The fire was caused by a broken refrigerator, and lead to severe damage of the Jewish synagogue’s sanctuary, as well as the holy ark, which contained many important artifacts, including several old and valuable torahs. The congregation was suddenly left without anywhere to go, and they began a fundraising effort to rebuild their synagogue that cost over 7 million dollars.

The building was recently finished, allowing the congregation to finally hold meetings again. But what’s so interesting about this story is who supported Temple Beth Sholom during their time of crisis.

A local chapter of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints heard of the synagogue’s plight, and offered to host the congregation while their new building was under construction. Luckily, Jewish services took place on Friday night, and LDS services on Sundays, so sharing the facility was a smooth process. The Mormon church generously provided the congregation with the space needed to continue meeting and holding their services and events. They were very sympathetic to their plight, as Temple Beth Sholom had actually housed the Mormon congregation over five decades ago when their building was under construction, providing the same level of generosity.

Members of the two congregations even bonded over this new shared religious space. This was great for the morale of both congregations and lead to new friendships and understanding of one another’s traditions. The fire was extremely tough on the Jewish congregation’s leadership. Temple Beth Sholom is one of the oldest Jewish synagogues in Orange County, founded in 1943, and has a rich history and traditions. Losing their meeting place, which symbolized this strength and connection, was devastating. Luckily, the Mormon church had minimal Christian symbolism in its sanctuary, and the interior was similarly colored to the original Jewish synagogue, so members of the Jewish congregation felt right at home in the environment. The Mormon leaders were also extremely gracious and focused on helping the congregation in their time of need.

After a long year and a half of fundraising and rebuilding, the congregation was finally able to return home on August 30th. The ceremony drew hundreds of people and celebrated the return home with a blessing called Shehecheyanu. Also, three of the torahs that sustained damage in the original fire were able to be restored by local scribes. This is extremely important because the torahs were over a century old, and one was even recovered from an old Nazi warehouse.

The congregation of Temple Beth Sholom is extremely grateful to have finally returned home. The new sanctuary is representative of the strength of the congregation and its leaders, as well as the generosity of those who took them in during a difficult time, including their neighbors from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.


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