Shalom, Helena


 My story from Helena went live. If you haven’t seen the video, you should. 

HELENA, Ark. (JTA) — As the setting sun cast the Western sky in a pastel shade of pink, the last Jews of Helena gathered on a recent Friday night at the home of Miriam and David Solomon to welcome the Sabbath.

Six elderly Jews — nearly all in their 90s — took their seats in the Solomons’ living room as David, a Harvard-trained lawyer and dapper Southern gentleman, led a short, mostly English service. When it was over, cocktails were mixed — "a libation," he called it — and the group passed around a tray of cheese straws, a local specialty.Until three years ago, Friday night services were held in the stately Temple Beth El synagogue at the corner of Pecan and Perry streets in the center of town.

But a declining membership forced the community to part with its beloved building in 2006, gifting it to the state of Arkansas for use as a theater and community center.Now the remaining Jews gather for services in private homes, just as the first Jewish settlers in Helena did nearly two centuries ago."We’re just going back to the cycle," Miriam said. "We’ve come full circle."

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