A History Continued
Over the years, as the need arose, the Ladies Aid Society would hold additional fairs. In 1903, the fair helped to raise money to refurbish the temple’s vestry rooms. The temple suffered a fire in 1907, which destroyed much of its interior. In 1908, the Ladies Aid Society held an elaborate bazaar that sold furniture, dry goods, jewelry, cut glass, and candy, in addition to running a restaurant and Japanese tea garden in the store. Columbus’ mayor formally opened the bazaar that year. The restaurant was open from 10 am to 11 pm each day and specialized in oysters, “which are served in as many varieties as a gentleman has quarter dollars.” The Ladies Aid Society Bazaar looked a lot like the department stores members’ husbands owned, though most of their merchandise was donated and their enterprise was only open for a week. These temporary stores were a lot of work for the women, but they could be quite successful. In 1908, the Ladies Aid Society raised over $1500 from the bazaar. Other bazaars were held in 1910 and 1916.
By the 1890s, increasing numbers of Jews from Eastern Europe began to settle in Columbus. These Jewish immigrants did not feel comfortable in the Reform temple of B’nai Israel and in 1892 fifteen of them organized their own Orthodox congregation, Chevra Sharis Israel. They first met on the second floor of a downtown building and later in the local Odd Fellows Hall. The small congregation did not have a rabbi in its early years. In 1915, a group of members each paid $100 to buy land at the corner of 1st Avenue and 7th Street for a
permanent synagogue for the congregation. Of the eleven men who pitched in to buy the land, ten were Russian-born immigrants. Nine had come to the United States after 1897. The 40 members of Chevra Sharis Israel dedicated their congregation’s first synagogue in September of 1915. With a stucco exterior, the building could seat 500 people, including a balcony designed for the women of the congregation. They were able to get an ark from the small Jewish community of Eufaula, Alabama, who did not have a synagogue. Most members of the congregation lived in the area around the new synagogue. Soon after dedicating the synagogue, Chevra Sharis Israel hired it first rabbi, Joseph Werlin, who had immigrated to the United States from Russia in 1906. Rabbi Werlin also served as a shochet and mohel for the congregation, until he left in 1922. Sharis Israel had a great deal of rabbinic turnover during this period, with four different rabbis leading the congregation during the eight years after Werlin left. Despite this leadership instability, the congregation grew quickly after it dedicated its building, with its membership doubling. In 1919, they had fifty students in their religious school, which met every day after school. In 1909, seventeen female members of Sharis Israel founded the Jewish Ladies Relief Society, which later became the congregation’s sisterhood. This organization raised money to support the synagogue and Jewish charities.