Category Archives: MAJCO
Six13 – A Star Wars Chanukah
“DO, OR DO NOT — THERE IS NO TRY.”
Little known fact: though Baby Yoda’s cousin delivered this sage advice to Luke Skywalker, he took his inspiration from the Maccabees. Like the Jedi years later, against all odds (never tell us the odds!) they fought off a great empire who sought their destruction.
Today, we celebrate the miracles of that time with presents, dreidels and latkes — and our tribute to the music of one of the greatest film franchises of all time. CHAG SAMEACH… may the force be with you!
There will be a Menorah lighting at the State Capitol Rotunda in Helena on Monday, 12/23/2019, 26 Kislev, 5780, at 12:00 P.M., followed by a MAJCo meeting at 1:00 P.M. All statewide members are welcome to attend.
Also on Monday, 12/23/2019, 26 Kislev, 5780, at 4:30 P.M., Rabbi Mark Kula of Beth shalom, Bozeman, will light the Chanukiyah at Fort Harrison. Everyone is welcome to attend.
The annual city wide Chanukah celebration has become a Missoula tradition. All are welcome to celebrate Chanukah with family, friends, and Mayor John Engen!
Sunday, December 22
At the DoubleTree Hotel
100 Madison Street
Enjoy an LED JUGGLING SHOW, as well as the traditional Latkes, Doughnuts, Dreidel games and Arts & Crafts.
Fun for kids, and fun for kids at heart.
A MAJCo meeting has been planned for Sunday morning, October 20, during the upcoming Missoula Shabbaton.
It will begin sharply at 8:30 AM and last approximately 1 to 2 hours.
For those unable to attend in person but wishing to participate, they may join in online: https://join.freeconferencecall.com/bchessin4
or by calling: (605) 313-6069
Access code: 857836
meeting ID: bchessin4
1. Introduction. Bert and Brian take a few minutes to bring people up to date on MAJCo. (5 min)
2. Congregational and Montana Jewish organizations (MAOR, Hadassah, other) summaries. (30 min)
3. CHANUKAH Menorah lighting plans. (5 min)
4. Financial summary (5 min)
5. Ideas on what communities and individuals want from MAJCo. BY-LAWS, annual gatherings, elections, dealing with political/social/security issues that directly affect congregations, minorities, etc. (30 min)
6. Other issues and announcements (10 min)
Submitted by Brian Schnitzer
From NYC to the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, from Ghana and Belarus, Turkey, Israel, Guatemala and beyond, 92Y would like to wish you a “Shana Tovah” (a “Happy New Year”) with the release of “Reset”, a new song and video for Rosh Hashanah 2019-5780.
“Reset” features music and lyrics by Noah Aronson and Abigail Pogrebin and was shot on mobile phones by people all over the world, all making music together.
A Song for the New Year Sung by Communities Around the World #5780
We hope your New Year is full of love and gratitude. Thank you to everyone around the world who helped make this happen.
Please register by Monday October 7 .
We will not be able to accommodate you for meals & other special activities without your registration.
Shalom Missoula Shabbaton – October 18, 19, 20
Shabbat Services, Festive Home-cooked Shabbat Meals, Rabbinic Installation,
Jazz at the Mountain,
Jewish History Tours and Jewish Festival
Here is the Registration Form for our Shabbaton, Shalom Missoula. Please let me know
at email@example.com if you prefer to have a paper copy sent to you by conventional mail. You can also register via Eventbrite, using this url:
You can register for All Shabbaton, which includes our Saturday evening fundraiser, “Jazz at the Mountain”. Our All Shabbaton pricing pays for meals and includes an increment for Har Shalom’s “Fund for the Future” to establish a Jewish center for learning and spiritual life. Please help us dream and grow!
You can also register for Shabbaton Light, which does not include the Saturday “Jazz at the Mountain” event or opt separately for “Jazz at the Mountain” and the Sunday Festival. Worship is open to all, no pay-to-pray!
• Inspirational, Musical Kabbalat Shabbat with our new music group, Selah
• Sit-down Shabbat Dinner with lively singing
• Shabbat Morning Service, Rabbinic installation, Shabbat Lunch
• Saturday Evening “Jazz at the Mountain”, gala fundraiser at Har Shalom
• Sat and Sunday light, buffet-style breakfasts
• Sunday mid-morning to early afternoon, “Leiser’s Footsteps, Missoula’s Jewish Treasures,” presentation and tours of a groundbreaking exhibit of the Jewish History of Missoula
• ***Sunday morning MAJCo Meeting ***
• Sunday afternoon Jewish Music, Food, & Dance Festival
Join us November 3 for A Historic Evening With Eva Schloss at Montana State University. Eva is a Holocaust survivor and stepsister to Anne Frank. Hear her fascinating and painful story of surviving the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, and how she still believes in the immeasurable power of good.
https://www.bozemandailychronicle.com › news › montana_state_university
We are excited to be teaming up with the University of Montana to introduce to you for the very first time:
The Missoula Jewish Music Fiesta!
Join us for a FREE musical tour of Jewish Culture
Starring: The Weinreb Brothers
Sunday, September 8, 3-5pm
Location: Bonner park
You do not want to miss this!
Kosher Food Stand | Family Friendly Activities | Jewish Cultural Booth
The Weinreb Brothers have been jamming together since their youth. They grew up with the music of Carlebach, Moshav Band, Soulfarm, Yossi and Avi Piamenta, and other Jewish greats. The influence of these performers helped shape the unique Weinreb Brothers sound: distinctly Jewish, but with touches of bluegrass, rock, and blues.
As of May 2019, Israel’s population is 9,009,000. About 74.2% are Jews, 21% Muslim or Christian Arabs, and the rest non-Arab Christians and others. (Central Bureau of Statistics)
Citizens aged 0-20 comprise 43% of Israel’s population. The largest group within that category is 5- to 14-year-olds (18%). The latter category is largest in Jerusalem, making up 21% of its population. (Statistical Yearbook of Jerusalem)
Jerusalem is Israel’s most populous city, with about 883,000 residents. Tel Aviv-Yafo (Jaffa) comes in second (439,000) and Haifa third (280,000). (Statistical Yearbook of Jerusalem)
In Tel Aviv, the largest population segment by age is 35-44 (about 17%), while in Haifa the two highest population groups are ages 5-14 and 35-44 (12% each). (Statistical Yearbook of Jerusalem)
The most common family name in Israel is Cohen (one in 50 people). Agbaria is the most common surname among Muslims, Khoury among Christians and Halabi among Druze. (Central Bureau of Statistics)
The most common first names for boys in Israel are Muhammad, Yosef, Ariel, Omer, Adam, David, Daniel, Lavi, Eitan and Uri. The most popular names for girls are Tamar, Abigail, Miriam, Sarah, Adele, Yael, Noa, Shira, Noya and Lia. (Population and Immigration Authority, 2017-2018)
A high-tech superpower
Israel has the highest number of startups per capita in the world. (2018 Global Startup Ecosystem Report)
Israel hosts about 8,200 active high-tech companies. (IVC Research Center)
30 Israeli venture capital funds raised $2.55 billion in 2018, the largest sum ever raised by Israeli VCs and 69% more than in 2017. (IVC)
Israel ranks fifth overall on the 2019 Bloomberg Innovation Index, moving up from #10 in 2018. In the R&D Intensity category, Israel ranks #1.
Israel’s expenditure on research and development (R&D) as a percentage of its GDP (4.21%) is the highest in the world. (OECD)
Israel ranks #2 among top 10 countries for scientific research, based on the number of scientific research papers released, the number of patents registered, the percentage of GDP spent on R&D and the number of researchers per 1,000 people. (RS Components)
More than 350 multinational corporations have R&D centers in Israel, including IBM, Intel, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Merck, HP Indigo, J&J, GE, Siemens, Qualcomm, Applied Materials and Samsung.
Israel has the world’s highest per capita number of such centers. (IVC, Ministry of Economy and Industry)
Every year, about 1,400 startups are founded in Israel and some 800 shut down. (Israel Innovation Authority)
Thirteen Israeli-founded companies with headquarters or development offices in Israel are “unicorns,” privately held startups valued at $1 billion or more: Payoneer, Taboola, Outbrain, Gett, Infinidat, ironSource, eToro, OrCam, Lemonade, Fiverr, JFrog, WalkMe and Via. (TechAviv)
The most lucrative acquisition of an Israeli company took place in 2017, when Intel bought Jerusalem-based Mobileye for $15.3 billion.
Intel is making the largest-ever corporate investment in Israel: An $11 billion production plant planned in Kiryat Gat.
Intel, which employs about 12,800 Israelis in five centers throughout the country, is the most active foreign corporate investor in Israel, putting $435 million into more than 90 Israeli companies — $120 million in 2018 alone. (IVC, Intel Capital Israel)
Healthy, happy and long-lived
Israel has the lowest rate of diet-related deaths in the world. (Global Burden of Disease Study, Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation)
Israel ranks fifth in the world for healthy longevity and 11th in the world for overall happiness. (2018 United Nations World Happiness Report)
Average life expectancy for Israeli men is 80.7, and 84.6 for women, as of 2017. (Central Bureau of Statistics)
Israel ranks 10th on the 2019 Bloomberg Healthiest Country Index.
88.6% of Israelis say they are pleased with their lives. (Central Bureau of Statistics)
85% of Israelis over the age of 20 feel safe walking alone in the dark in their residential area. (Central Bureau of Statistics)
A tree, fruit and veggie empire
In 1948, about 2% of Israel was covered in trees. Now it’s up to around 8.5%. Since its establishment in 1901, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National fund (KKL-JNF) has planted more than 240 million trees in Israel.
Israel is one of the only countries in the world that ended the 20th century with more trees than it had at the start. (KKL-JNF)
As of the end of 2018, every Israeli has access annually to an average 152 kilograms of fruit and 154kg of vegetables. (Central Bureau of Statistics)
In 2017, the leading crops produced in Israel were potatoes, tomatoes, carrots and peppers on the vegetable side; and bananas, apples, avocados and grapes on the fruit front. (Central Bureau of Statistics)
Citrus fruit is Israel’s largest agricultural export, adding up to $230 million in 2017. The value of all Israel’s fresh and processed agricultural exports was about $2.2 billion in 2016. (Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development)
A flourishing tourism industry
In 2018, Israel welcomed a record-breaking 4,120,800 million incoming tourists.
The Western Wall in Jerusalem is the most-visited tourist site, followed by other sites in Jerusalem’s Old City: the Jewish Quarter, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Via Dolorosa, Mount of Olives and the Tower of David Museum. Outside Jerusalem, the most popular tourist sites are Masada, the Church of the Annunciation, Tel Aviv Port, Capernaum and Caesarea. (Ministry of Tourism)
In 2018, almost half of all Israelis (4.1 million) traveled abroad – 2.2 million of them once, and 1.9 million twice or more. (Central Bureau of Statistics)
The Israel Hotel Association lists 370 member hotels, encompassing a total of 54,864 rooms. This number does not include hundreds of small boutique hotels and bed-and-breakfasts (tzimmers) across Israel.
The most expensive hotel rooms in Israel are the Noble Suite at Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem and the Presidential Suite at the Ritz Carlton Herzliya, each approximately $5,000 per night in high season.
Invested heavily in water desalination and conservation
Israeli households, industry and agriculture consume 2.1 billion cubic meters of water every year. (Mekorot National Water Carrier)
Israel recycles 87% of its wastewater for agriculture, much more than any other country in the world. Some 31% of irrigation water originates from wastewater treated at more than 150 plants. (Mekorot)
Sixty to 80% of Israel’s municipal water, adjusted according to season and real-time demand, flows from large coastal desal plants in Sorek, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Palmachim and Hadera. (Mekorot)
Sorek is the largest seawater reverse osmosis desalination plant in the world. The 100,000-square-meter facility can produce 624,000 cubic meters of water daily — 20% of domestic water consumption. (IDE Technologies)
Knowing the birds and the bees
As of 2019, Israel counts some 545 resident species of birds. (Israeli Birding Portal)
Every year some 500 million birds of 150 to 200 species migrate across Israel in their twice-yearly pilgrimage to and from warmer climes in March and November.
Israel has about 500 beekeepers with a total of 110,000 hives. (Israeli Honey Board)
Israel’s annual honey yield is about 3,000 tons.
About 1,600 tons of honey is consumed by Israelis every Rosh Hashana to symbolize the hope of a sweet Jewish New Year ahead. (Israeli Honey Board
Extraordinarily well educated
Twelve Israelis have been awarded Nobel prizes: S.Y. Agnon, Menachem Begin, Shimon Peres, Yitzhak Rabin, Daniel Kahneman, Aaron Ciechanover, Avram Hershko, Robert Aumann, Ada Yonath, Dan Shechtman, Michael Levitt and Arieh Warshel.
Israel has the highest number of engineers and scientists per capita. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Israel ranks third among OECD countries for the percent of its population that has attained higher education and fifth for its total expenditure on educational institutions as a percentage of GDP. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Israel boasts a literacy level of 97.8% of citizens above the age of 15. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
Israel is home to 66 institutions of higher education: Seven research universities, one open university, 23 teacher-training colleges, 21 academic colleges and 14 private colleges. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs)
A small Israeli-Arab village in the Lower Galilee has one of the highest numbers of doctors per capita in the world.
Tel Aviv trivia
Coastal Tel Aviv-Yafo boasts many distinctions apart from being the heart of Israel’s startup culture.
Tel Aviv is the world’s 10th most expensive city, tied with Los Angeles. (The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2019 Worldwide Cost of Living Survey)
Tel Aviv is Israel’s most expensive residential area. The average price of owner-occupied dwellings was ₪2,176,700 ($610,053) in the second quarter of 2018 (GlobalPropertyGuide) and 68 apartments priced at over ₪5 million ($1.3 million) were sold in Tel Aviv during the first half of 2018 (madlan.co.il).
Time Out of London ranks Tel Aviv the best city in the Middle East.
There are 13 beaches along Tel Aviv-Yafo’s coastline, visited by some 8.5 million people annually. (Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality)
Tel Aviv has the highest number of pet dogs per capita in the world, at one pooch per every 17 residents. (Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality)
Tel Aviv has been called the world’s top destination for vegan tourists (Daily Meal) and vegan capital of the world (The Independent). The highest concentration of vegan restaurants is in the Florentin neighborhood.
Of the 21 Israeli residents listed on the Forbes 2019 World Billionaires list, many live in Tel Aviv — including the wealthiest Israeli man, Roman Abramovich (who was listed by Forbes as Russian although he got Israeli citizenship in 2018) and Shari Arison, the richest woman in Israel.
Random awesome factoids
Israel has more than 230 museums, believed to be more museums per capita than any other country in the world. (CNN Travel)
Israel shipped $61.9 billion worth of goods around the globe in 2018. The top five exports are gems and precious metals (24% of total exports), electrical machinery and equipment (13.8%), pharmaceuticals (9.1%), optical, technical and medical apparatus (8.6%) and machinery including computers (7.8%). (World’s Top Exports)
There are more vegans (5%) and vegetarians (8%) per capita in Israel than anywhere else in the world.
In 2017, Israel hosted the world’s largest animal rights march, drawing some 30,000 activists. (PETA)
Every day, Osem produces one million bags of Bamba, Israel’s top-selling snack. Surveys show that 90% of Israeli families buy Bamba on a regular basis.
Israel has won nine Olympic medals since 1952: one gold in sailing, one silver in judo, and seven bronze (four in judo, two in sailing and one in canoeing).
Israeli rhythmic gymnast Linoy Ashram set a world record with a score of 20.65 points in the clubs event at the Rhythmic Gymnastics World Challenge Cup Championship in 2018.
Guinness World Records certified in April 2019 that Isaak Hayik of Or Yehuda, Israel, is the oldest soccer player in the world.
A new Guinness World Record was set for most people using virtual reality displays at the same time, when Israeli company Mobileye made a presentation to 1,867 business leaders at the 2017 YPO Edge conference in Vancouver, Canada.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This might encourage some of you to write down your memories and send them in to firstname.lastname@example.org for publication in the Ram’s Horn.
My memories of the Butte Jewish Community and how it came to be
This story must begin in Russia from where my ancestors came. We were serfs in that hate filled land. The Ehrlichs, like other Jews, were permitted to build a small hovel in a shtetl. The home had to be of wood… so it could be burned from time to time at the whim of the landowner, the Cossacks, or the Czar; most had a dirt floor. Serfdom was like slavery; you could grow or produce whatever you want, but everything that you produce belonged to the landowner who permitted your existence so long as he felt like it. One common rule was the requirement that a Jewish girl could be married only after she spent the night in the landowner’s house. Jews countered by sending the girl as unattractive as possible, head shaven, dirty and wearing old clothes; hoping that she would be sent back home unviolated. The bride would then appear at her wedding wearing a wig; and henceforth all her married life. This custom is still followed in many orthodox communities to this day; although many do not know the origin of the tradition. Protective embarrassment or ignorance?
Meyer Ehrlich wanted to marry Rachel Feldman and asked his father (whose name I don’t know) to talk to Rachel’s father to help arrange it. Rachel, however, had an older sister, Leah. David Feldman, the girl’s father, made it clear that the older daughter must marry first, and Meyer agreed to marry Leah. Yes, this sounds like the biblical story of our ancestors. Deviousness seems to be an Ehrlich trait.
Meyer and Leah saved enough money so that they were able to hop the train immediately after the wedding and head for America. They left from a German port, steerage class, and arrived in New York in 1895. They lived in Patterson, N.J. and produced the first two of eight children: Rose and Dave (my father). Meyer had heard land in America could still be had for free (the Homestead Act) and he wanted to be a landowner. He clearly thought the glories and status of the Russian landowner would also apply in America. He and Leah moved to Denver and applied. Meyer was a skillful tailor and supported his growing family while awaiting response from the government. Meyer soon learned that the best homestead plots had been taken, but he had the choice of three and he traveled to inspect them, and accepted a grant in northern Idaho near Plummer junction (a few miles down the lake from Coeur d’ Alene).
Life was difficult on the homestead, the land was only suitable as a tree farm, and within a year or two Leah took the younger kids and went to Butte where she had a relative. Meyer and the older kids stayed on to fulfill the requirements to gain ownership of the land. They all moved to Butte by 1915.
During the time on the homestead the Ehrlichs had very good relations with the Kootnai Indians; and they were “visited” by a representative of the Catholic Mission at Cataldo, whom they sent away such that he did not return. The Catholics of course were on mission to convert mainly the Indians, but Jews souls as well were targeted. The Indians still remember and resent loss of their culture and language in the Catholic schools. To this day the Indian tribes and members specifically go to Jewish lawyers when they need representation.
Meyer and Leah had eight children between 1896 and 1914: Rose, Dave, Herman, Lou, Marion, Mitch, Freda, and Joe. Dave worked for the Milwaukee RR and, along with Meyer’s meager earnings, financed the education of the younger brothers and sisters, who also worked odd jobs as they could. Usually Dave was working two jobs at a time, sometimes three. Dave completed seventh grade but did not go to any higher education, unlike all the other kids, other than Joe who was not capable. Rose and Marion became teachers and moved out to the Seattle area.
Jobs were hard to find during the depression. Dave got Herman a fireman’s job on the Milwaukee running from Harlowtown MT to Aberdeen, S.D. He would overnight in Aberdeen and work the train back west the next day. He got to know the town and learned of a jewelry store available. Herman had attended Bradley Horological School (watch and clock making and repairing) and was able to buy the jewelry and watch store in Aberdeen, S.D. Lou became a pharmacist and owned Henry’s Pharmacy on West Granite St. in Butte, and Mitch became a dentist and had a practice in the Medical Arts Building at Park and Main in Butte.
In the 1930’s there was tremendous antisemitism worldwide. Butte was no exception. One day antisemetic posters appeared all over town blaming the Jews for killing Jesus and making matzos with blood from Christian children, and all sorts of problems. The Jewish community had a special meeting in the Temple to discuss it. Nobody knew what to do and all were scared. Dave noticed the printer’s mark on the bottom of many of the posters which identified the print shop in Three Forks. He said he knew the owner because he used to work with him on the railroad. He got Mitch, Herman, and Lou to drive over to Three Forks in Mitch’s car, where Dave went in and spoke to the owner while “the boys” waited in the car outside. The printer said the order and the money for the antisemetic posters came from Senator Rankin’s office! He became very apologetic and said he wouldn’t be doing any more similar orders.
Jeanette Rankin was the daughter of a pharmacist in Virginia City. In fact her father’s old drug store is still a tourist attraction there. She had been elected to the Senate in time to vote against US participation in WWI; and she was in the Senate at the time of Pearl Harbor and cast the only “no” vote to the declaration of war against Germany and Japan (WWII). She was a notable antisemite and had many supporters in Butte.
One of those supporters was Monsignor English; a big higher-up in the Catholic Church. English was famous for his Sunday sermons at mass blaming the Jews for killing Jesus and such. Parishoners of his Sacred Heart Church frequently came to Mitch’s office or Lou’s store and described the antisemitism, but said they could do nothing about it. So when you hear the claims of Butte’s open-mindedness and how everybody got along with good feelings, you should know nonsense is being put out before you.
Most of the Jewish men in town were members of B’Nai Brith. In 1936 they hosted the BB national convention at the Finlen Hotel in Butte. The leaders were Billy Meyer, (lawyer) and of course his son Sig Meyer (lawyer), Avron Canty (clothing) and his father, Sig Newman and Mel Rafish (shoes), Sammy Finberg (furniture), Kalman Rudolph (furniture), Henry Coddon (wholesale paper), Emil and Ed Marans (womens wear), and of course the Ehrlich boys, also Harry Gronfein and his son Stanley (mens clothing), and Dave Schultz, (clothing), and others. Phil Judd (sporting goods and hardware), also Dr. Sam Rafish, the other Jewish dentist in Montana. Everyone said it was the finest event ever. Jews were almost always shopkeepers.
Butte hit it bigtime after the 1905 World’s Fair in Chicago, which demonstrated the electric light for the first time. Suddenly copper was in high demand for electrification, even though this was somewhat held back by the demands of WWI and the depression years. Since the completion of electrification by means of copper wire in the 1950’s, copper demand plateaued, and with the development of fiberoptics and satellite communication it has plummeted. Butte’s mines closed in the 1960’s and the pit which replaced them has also ceased operations. Butte’s Jewish population has moved on to other locales.
During the Second World War (1939-1945), my father Dave worked the railroad terminal without a day off. He was on call 24 hours a day. He often would return to meet a train at two in the morning. He always walked the 7 or so blocks on his wooden prosthetic leg, He didn’t have a car until the mid 1950’s. My mother stayed home and had insomnia. Often she would want to walk uptown (she never drove) at odd hours of the night, and she’d take me with her, especially if the weather was nice. Many stores were open 24 hours because the mines were always running 24 hrs/day and people were always walking the streets. Usually I’d get an ice cream or some candy. There was never concern about being bothered on the street; everybody was extremely polite. “Yes ma’am”, “good evening sir”, and a tip of the hat greeting was almost universal. There was almost never any kind of theft or break-in, even among this population of tough miners. The reason was that nearly every home was well stocked with hunting rifles, shotguns and handguns. Every shopkeeper dealt heavily in cash, often silver dollars, and had a weapon. Everybody knew that many women had a weapon in their purse or elsewhere. Politeness was the norm.
I had a very good half-Jewish friend named Jack Rosenberg. They owned Rosenberg’s furniture and appliance. The Rosenberg’s like many people heated their home with wood and had a woodpile in their yard. One day I was over there and Jack’s father gave us a 12 gauge shotgun shell and a brace and bit and said somebody has been stealing from his firewood pile. He told us to drill a hole in a piece of firewood and drop the shell down inside and conceal the hole by mixing some glue and sawdust and filling the hole with it. We placed the fixed firewood piece in a prominent place. A few days later Jack’s dad said a neighbor from down the street was “in today and bought a new stove” for his parlor. We knew what that meant.
My first few years of grade school I walked from our house on Main St to the Monroe school in east Butte, near Utah St. I walked thru the gas works and past St. Joe’s (the catholic) school. Of course I knew many of the kids there and they knew I was a Jew. Almost every day they’d throw rocks or snowballs at me. Being outnumbered I usually had to just run the gauntlet. Occasionally there’d be only one or two of them and I could get a punch in before running; or if I was with another kid (non-catholic) or two from Monroe school I was golden. Then we’d have a mass snowball or rockfight-depending on the season. My public school friends then were Bobby Vawter, Joe Holly whose family owned the Supreme Market where we did all our grocery shopping, and Nicky and Jimmy Malkovich, and Chico Kovic. Some of these kids were catholic but went to the public school. Billy Edwards was catholic but he was my friend because his grandmother Mrs. Silver was a friend of my grandmother (Leah) and they always were trading baked goods.
Butte always had the image of rough and ready. Hard drinking and hard fighting. This started with the underground wars of the copper kings but extended to the streets and schoolyards. (It continues today with Bob Robinson… the navy seal who killed Osama Bin Laden.) Growing up in the 1950’s I remember schoolyard fistfights nearly every recess and dismissal, although I can’t remember the reason for any. It was common for a kid to go home bloodied and come to school the next day as though nothing had happened. Nobody ever carried a grudge. I do not remember of any kid bringing a weapon to school. Fair fighting fists only.
And we had easy and common access to guns of all kinds. I myself went with my friend Bobby Vawter on our bikes to shoot rabbits at Big Butte, (the mountain south of the city). Each of us with a 22 rifle strapped over the shoulder. Bobby was not Jewish, would take the rabbits home and his mother would skin and cook them. My mother, of course, would not touch them.
The community was pretty observant in the old days. On Pesach there would be a community seder at the Finlen. The ladies would make all the foods and bring them for everybody to share and afterward talk about. “The kneidlach Mrs. so-and-so made were so hard you’d need a nutcracker”; “that soup was so greasy it could go into the crankcase”; and similar comments.
Nobody made outdoor sukkot but each year an arch was erected over the bima inside the Temple and decorated with greenery and fruits. Talesim and kippot were never worn. Services were Friday nite only with emphasis to be finished in time to get to the high school stadium for kickoff. I don’t remember any Saturday religious events; everybody worked in their stores.
Butte’s Jewish community was pretty observant in the ’40’s and even into the ’50’s, but as the population dwindled the Judaism observance did as well. The orthodox synagogue closed up and became members of the Reform Temple. The quality of the employed rabbis deteriorated too: One was known to the police for unusual sexual interests and let go. He was replaced by “Rabbi Benjamin Kelson” who tutored me for my Bar Mitzvah. It was discovered later that he did hnot actually have “smicha” (ordination).
Soon the community gave up employing a rabbi and relied on bringing in rabinical students for major functions. I believe that now the Temple stands empty nearly all the time and is rarely opened any more. About a year ago I was in Butte with my son Daniel, who is an orthodox rabbi, (with smicha!) and he offered to conduct a proper Shabbat observance for the community, at no charge. We were bluntly discouraged and told “people have other plans”.
I think that describes the rise and fall of Butte’s Jewish community.
Fred Ehrlich; May 2019