Jewish Community Today
Local Jewish historian Ed Abramson estimates that current congregation of the Knesseth Israel Temple is half of what it was at the time of its founding in 1950. This could be attributed to several different causes - from the decline of businesses downtown, where many prominent Jews such as the Freedlanders and the Brenners had their shops, to the growing Jewish communities in larger cities such as Cleveland and Columbus. In any case, the change in the demographics of the congregation over the years has changed the whole outlook of the synagogue. According to the Knesseth Israel Temple’s website, the congregation was “originally Orthodox to accommodate the religious needs and tastes of many recent immigrants to the US [but now forms a] comfortable compromise between Conservative and Reform practice and in the 1990’s affiliated as a Reconstructionist congregation.”1 This branch of Judaism is by far the smallest in the county - in 1990 there were at most sixty thousand members - and it emphasizes Jewish culture and tradition over the divinity of God, a large break from the synagogue’s original Orthodox leanings.2 Today, Abramson believes that most members of the Knesseth Israel Temple feel in equal parts members of the Jewish and Wooster Communities.3 The Jewish community has been an integral part of the town for over 130 years and they are still thriving today.
1 Knesseth Israel Temple, “History,” accessed June 17, 2013, www.kitemple.org.
2 Peter W. Williams, America’s Religions: From Their Origins to the Twenty-first Century, (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1990), 405.
3 Ed Abramson, interview by author, June 10, 2013.