For the first time in its 130-year history, Maryland’s Congregation of Israel will not hold High Holidays services this year. Marc Scher is now the ailing synagogue’s last member.
Without interruption for almost 130 years, the Jewish community in Pocomoke City has observed Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and nine days later, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Now, on his watch, he said, a tradition dear to his heart will be broken.
A decade ago, he knew this day would come. What he didn’t know is that he would also be the last Jew standing, the only one in town of a congregation that was formed almost 130 years ago in Cape Charles. Of the two other Shore congregations, Salisbury and Ocean City, Pocomoke’s is the oldest.
"There were quite a few Jews in the area years back. A lot of Jewish immigrants settled in this area," Scher said. "A lot of Jews, like my family, came from Lithuania during the Bolshevik Revolution, pre-World War I."
Having 60 people at services in a synagogue that could hold about 70 people wasn’t bad, he said. Then things started to change. As the years passed, older members died and the younger generations left.
"Before I was born, there was a full-time rabbi here. I was 12 when they stopped weekly services," Scher said. "Then we found ourselves without the 10, so we started counting women in our synagogue (as a minyan), maybe 20 years ago, because we couldn’t come up with 10 men."