SELMA, Ala. (WSFA) - Efforts are underway to raise funds to restore a Jewish temple in Selma.
Temple Mishkan Israel has sat along Broad Street in Selma since 1899.
“They built this beautiful structure in six months,” said Ronnie Leet.
For Leet, Mishkan Israel has become his second home.
“I was Bar Mitzvahed here when I was 13 years old and my sister was married here,” he said.
Leet is now the president of this temple. He says he can remember when there was a thriving Jewish community in Selma contributing in many ways.
“Selma has had three Jewish mayors. The Jewish community at its peak was somewhere between 350 and 450 families,” said Leet.
With only four remaining local active members this congregation still has a dream for this historic building. The congregation is currently focused on ensuring the story of the Jewish legacy in their city continues to be told for generations. The future of Temple Mishkan Israel includes both worship space and a museum about the community.
“We want to have it as a showcase for tourist groups coming through to tell about our Jewish community of the past,” said Leet.
To make that dream a reality the 120-year-old structure must be restored. Fundraising efforts are underway for a new roof, updated knob and tube wiring, and foundation repairs, all of which are original to 1899.
“I vividly remember walking in and having my breath taken away it. It is really such a treasure,” said Amy Milligan, an assistant professor of Jewish studies at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.
Milligan is writing a book about Temple Mishkan Israel and helped them launch a GoFundMe page.
“They have a very unique and special story to tell because of their roots in Selma," said Milligan. “This shows interest people all over the country have.”
For this congregation, seeing in just weeks thousands of dollars donated has given them renewed hope.
“It has taken some fire to get us moving forward and we have it now. I think our future is much brighter than it was one year ago,” said Leet.