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Spots, Sights and Sounds

Sumter's Temple Sinai a haunting memorial to midland, global Judaism

Sumter's Temple Sinai a haunting memorial to midland, global Judaism

by Christian Michael

March 31, 2019

Temple Sinai in Sumter, South Carolina, is a Reformed Jewish Temple a few blocks from the downtown strip and a standing piece of early state and national religious history. Tucked away from any main road in a long-settled neighborhood, the building is unassuming but for the large dome on its crown and the stain-colored glass lining the main sanctuary.

Once a vibrant place of prayer and community, the Temple congregation has dwindled over the past few decades until they cancelled services altogether. The Temple represents Sumter's long history of Jewish citizens and the southeast's place in religious history as Jews first landed in Charleston and expanded west.

To keep the Temple alive, they converted its main lobby into a well curated Jewish history museum, which details the characteristics of the faith and the impact of Jews on both central South Carolina and southeast history as a whole. Originally intended to be only a holocaust museum, the small exhibit which remains is a poignant reminder of Jewish loss and horror during World War II.

To my shock, when they turned on the Jewish memorial video, an old commander and friend of mine was on the TV talking history! I was flabbergasted and texted him immediately about it.

After the museum, I toured the main sanctuary. Stain glassed windows climb the walls, allowing natural light to illuminate powerful stories of redemption and faith straight from the pages of the Torah -- the Jewish scriptures. I also took note of the numerous metal plates and lights commemorating past congregants who have come and long since gone.

Anyone can come and sit in the quiet colors and light and contemplate. One of the very helpful museum staff even showed me the scrolls behind the podium. For my relatively short visit, I found the small location packed with great information and beautiful things to appreciate. I'd put this on a must-do if you're looking for things to do in the Sumter area.



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