History or comments
Although small in size this synagogue has endured for nearly 100 years.
The August 18, 1917 edition of the Aberdeen, SD newspaper featured an article with the headline “HEBREWS PURCHASE LOCAL CHURCH”. Aberdeen’s small Jewish community had purchased the Wesleyan Methodist Church building, which it converted into a synagogue. The newspaper’s September 6th edition said “With religious ceremony and patriotic exercises the congregation of the Sons of Isaac, will dedicate their new house of worship at the corner of Lincoln and Second Avenue north, Sunday afternoon.” The article was almost correct, except the location was on Kline Street, not Lincoln.
Although Aberdeen’s Jewish community was never large, it had 50 to 60 Jewish families in the 1930s. Now there are a half-dozen or less. It hasn’t had a full-time rabbi since the mid-1970s. Even so, its small but dedicated congregation maintains a Jewish presence, observes major holidays and participates in Aberdeen community activities and charities. With such a small Jewish community there are certain challenges to being an observant Jew.
Community leader, Bea Premack tells a story involving three Jewish doctors who worked at the Public Health Service Indian Hospital during the Vietnam War. She said ” one of the doctors’ family kept kosher, a diet with special requirements. There was nowhere in Eagle Butte to buy kosher meat, so Premack’s mother shipped kosher meat from Omaha, Nebraska to Aberdeen, and a laundry truck took the meat from Aberdeen to Eagle Butte. “