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Purchase of historic Helena synagogue completed

Temple Emanu-El
Posted at 1:37 PM, Aug 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-26 15:37:21-04

HELENA - The Montana Jewish Project (MJP) says it has closed on the purchase of the Temple Emanu-El in Helena.

The non-profit purchased the synagogue from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena after a nearly year-long fundraising effort.

According to the group, Temple Emanu-El is the oldest synagogue in Montana.

Temple Emanu-El Historic
A 19th-century image of Temple Emanu-El, Montana's first synagogue, from the Helena Board of Trade. (Courtesy: Ellen Baumler)

The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

It was built in 1891 and sold to the City of Helena in 1935 during the Great Depression.

The diocese purchased the building in 1981 and used it for administrative offices.

Plans for the Montana Jewish Project to purchase the building started last November when the diocese moved and consolidated its administrative offices.

MJP thanked Bishop Austin Vetter and said he played a key role in the negotiation and purchase of the building.

Rebecca Stanfel, MJP president, also thanked the community members who donated to the project.

Temple Emanu-El Plaque
A plaque on the Roman Catholic Diocese of Helena's offices marks the building's history as Temple Emanu-El, Montana's first synagogue.

“We are also grateful to the more than 2,000 donors from Helena and across Montana and the United States who made this dream a reality. Without their generosity and their gifts that ranged from $5 to $100,000, we know we would not be here today," Stanfel said.

"We’re also thankful for the interfaith support we received from many Montana synagogues and churches, as well as from Montana businesses. This was truly a community-wide effort,” Stanfel concluded.