Montana lawmakers invited to Temple Emanu-El

Posted at 5:37 PM, Apr 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-04-06 11:39:15-04

HELENA — Legislators will soon receive an official invitation to a first-of-its-kind reception at the historic Temple Emanu-El in Helena.

“I think it's important for all legislators, you know, whatever their party, is to understand the people living in their state, to understand their concerns, and also to see us not as another group but as part of Montana, a part of the legislature, a part of the community,” says Co-Founder and President of the Board of MJP, Rebecca Stanfel.

The Montana Jewish Project in partnership with the Anti-Defamation League’s Pacific Northwest Office is inviting all Montana State legislators to Temple Emanu-El. The building was bought back from the Catholic church by MJP last year and is utilized as a Jewish community center.

MJP purchased the building from the Catholic Diocese in August, 2022, which returned Montana’s oldest synagogue to Jewish hands for the first time since 1934. This will be the first time the building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is open for the Montana legislature.

Stanfel says she decided to send out this invitation because of rising antisemitism. A recent report by the ADL found there was a 36% rise in antisemitic incidents in 2022 when compared to the previous year. That’s the highest number since the group began tracking these incidents in 1979.

“We are living in a time of rising antisemitism both in language and in incidents. And we just thought this would be a great opportunity to get people out of behind, you know, the legislative walls to come someplace to learn the history of this amazing community and the contributions they made to the treasure state,” says Stanfel.

Stanfel says she hopes that relationships are formed and neighbors are met during this reception. And that a better understanding of the Jewish history in Montana is gained.

“And so, the whole point is just, you know, let's talk to one another, ask questions, you know, be part of the broader community,” says Stanfel.

Rabbi and Representative Ed Stafman of Bozeman will be attending the reception and hopes other legislators will make the same choice.

“Across the United States, we're seeing rising antisemitism. And it's important that there be a relationship between our lawmakers and the Jewish community,” says Stafman.

The reception will feature food, drink, a tour, and live Klezmer music (traditional Jewish folk music).

Official invitations to the legislators will be delivered soon.