The past couple of years Wilmington has seen a tremendous amount of growth, especially in the downtown area.
But on one Market Street corner, the scene looks pretty much the same as it did in 1876, when construction on the Temple of Israel was concluded.
Tonight, temple members will hold a special observance to mark the founding of their place of worship, which was completed one hundred forty years ago this week.
During the 1840's and 50's, Wilmington became the home of several Jewish families, who came from Germany. At that time, Wilmington economy was growing, thru steamship travel and trade along the Cape Fear River and on the brick streets of the Port City.
In 1876, construction of the Temple of Israel was completed on the same Market Street site where it is today. This weekend, one hundred forty years ago this week, the member’s first service was held.
"Well, there was a small Jewish community forming actually earlier than 1876, but because of historical events and the wars, there was a postponement of building the temple, but when the time came and people realized there was the need for an organized Jewish community, they put together this temple and it is the oldest Jewish population not only here in Wilmington, but the oldest Jewish population in North Carolina, and one of the oldest in the United States" said Rabbi Paul Sidlofsky.
Judaism a four thousand year old religious that has basically remained the same thru the years. But several things have changed as a result of the reform movement, which made sure services are a combination of Hebrew and English, to make them more accessible to people.
"Plus complete equalities between men and women has been achieved, and the religion is very open to interfaith families where we try to encourage Jewish involvement of the Jewish partner and to encourage the involvement of those who are not Jewish and certainly have the children raised as Jews and aware of their Jewish religion and heritage".
The Temple's membership has grown, especially during the past five years, from about one hundred forty households to over two hundred twenty households today. The Rabbi credits the area's growth for that as well as an increase in the Jewish community.
But he says he would like to believe that the Temple offers, other than religious services, a lot of opportunities with multiple ways to get into Temple life.
Rabbi Sidlofsky says his Temple is very accepting of people from different backgrounds and respects tradition, but are innovative and is open to change in the community. And says the Temple of Israel is looking forward to the next one hundred forty years of being an active part of the Wilmington community.
Tonight is the Jewish Sabbath, the Shabbat, and the public is invited to attend a special service, to celebrate the 140th anniversary of the construction of the Temple in Wilmington. It will begin at eight o'clock.