Danville Synagogue To Close
By Jim Meadows
Danville’s only synagogue will close later this month, but its congregation will continue to meet.
Congregation Israel says it will close the converted church on the north side of Danville that has been its home for the last 20 years. Congregation president Neal Ehrlich says that with only about 20 people in the congregation, they can no long afford to maintain the building. Instead, he says Congregation Israel will meet in office space donated by the Mervis family, who are long-time members of the synagogue.
“We’ll actually take the Ark and all the Judaica that goes along with it, the Torahs and anything else that will make it look like a synagogue, and we’ll turn this space into a synagogue”, said Ehrlich.
But the congregation will be meeting without a rabbi for the foreseeable future. An out-of-town rabbi had been leading services for Congregation Israel about nine times a year, but Ehrlich says that work will be turned over to lay-members who have the necessary training.
Ehrlich says the decision to close the synagogue has been a sad one, but that they’re determined to continue as a congregation.
“We met last (Wednesday) night to have a planning meeting”, said Ehrlich. “And we just sat around and talked and schmoozed . And we just said to each other, you know how important this is and want this to continue. We don’t want this to go away, and don’t want the community of Danville to not have a Jewish presence.”
Danville’s Jewish community dates back to the mid-19th century, according an article by Congregation Israel member Sybil Mervis posted at the Danville Jewish Community website. Congregation Israel formed as the town’s Conservative congregation in 1915. A Reform congregation, meeting as Temple Beth El, was active from 1902 to 1972.
Congregation Israel’s final services at its synagogue on 14 East Ridgeview Street in Danville will be held Friday, October 12th at 8 PM and Saturday October 13th at 10 AM. An additional service will be held Sunday, October 14th at 9:30 AM in the Jewish section of Danville’s Spring Hill Cemetery on East Voorhees Street.
For more information, including future meetings of Congregation Israel, contact congregation president Neal Ehrlich at 217-260-2837.