Discovered – Journal of Temple’s History
June 4, 2008
The Seder at Camp Rucker was attended by approximately one thousand persons.
In addition to the personnel of Camp Rucker and their families, the majority of the members of Congregation Emanu-el and the personnel of Napier Field attended this service. Chaplain (Rabbi) Samuel M. Silver and Mr. Mistovsky of the JWB were in charge of the service and had to cope with a number of difficulties. They provided and supervised the preparation of a vast amount of food. They cleaned an unused mess hall.
It was, perhaps, poetic justice that German prisoners of war were placed at their disposal for the celebration of our Festival of Freedom……Moving farewells took place last Sunday and today. In spite of restrictions, Chaplain Silver was able to bring “his” boys to the Temple in special buses for the brunch. The parting between the Congregation and the men of the 98th division was the parting of good friends.
The quotation above is from the handwritten history of the synagogue that was recently rediscovered by our President, Dr. Barbara Minsky in a Temple office cupboard. This history was written into the volume by C. Davis Turner, an early congregational leader, at the encouragement of the first Rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, Rabbi Alfred Wolf. These two men have provided us with an invaluable gift; the gift of knowledge of our congregation’s early history.
The book not only chronicles our beginnings, but provides us with an incredible and vivid account of the synagogue and its activities during the World War II years. Can we even imagine a Seder for 1,000 people, or the fear and trepidation as men of the 98th division who had become part of the synagogue family were alerted that they were being shipped out?
Knowledge of our local Jewish community’s history can help us understand where we are today, and more importantly, help us to plan for the future. Rabbi Wolf and Mr. Turner have given us an incredible gift, and I for one, am astonished and grateful that this treasure was found. We will be referring to it often in the months and years ahead.
There is an interesting piece of history/coincidence that is not recorded in this book. On June 27, 1974, in Simsbury, CT, Rabbi Samuel M. Silver, the same Rabbi Silver mentioned in this book of history and who served as an army chaplain at Camp Rucker, officiated at the marriage of Robert Goldsmith and Lynne Downey.
God surely works in mysterious ways.
Rabbi Lynne Downey Goldsmith