Refurbished Menorah now sitting in Temple Emanu-El thanks to community effort

Posted at 5:20 PM, Jun 04, 2024

HELENA — Thanks to a community-wide effort, a recently refurbished Menorah is sitting in Temple Emanu-El.

“And so, things like this and the path to which it returned to us, to me, just show us the values and the ways that we like to be in Montana. We don't let divisions keep us apart,” says Rebecca Stanfel, Director of the Montana Jewish Project.

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Through the work of various community members, this menorah was brought back to its former glory.

The menorah has only seven candle holders compared to the traditional nine on menorah used for Hanukkah. Stanfel says this is more of a candelabra but can also be referred to as a Menorah.

It’s the groups’ understanding that this brass Menorah was likely used in Temple Emanu-El during the 1890s. At some point, it was put in the possession of the local Masonic Lodge where it was used during various ceremonies. That is until, Evan Reba-Jones, a Mason himself and board member of the Montana Jewish Project was told about the Menorah.

“We don't know how exactly it got there, but the Scottish Rerite actually held and stewarded the Menorah. During that time, it somehow ended up in their curation and they used it through some of their most special rituals and decided to return it back to its proper home,” says Reba-Jones.

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Jeri Mae Rowley, a volunteer with Montana Jewish Project paid out of pocket for the needed parts for the restoration while Jason Schadler, owner of Artifex Custom Woodworks, gave freely of his talents and tools to de-electrify the Menorah and restore it to its former glory.

Rowley says she views this act of service as her duty as a neighbor, to put work into creating her community.

“When I first moved to Montana from Idaho with two little kids in my van, on the radio, somebody said, the unique thing about Montana is in Montana, the word neighbor is a verb. It's an action. It's not just where you happen to live in relation to somebody geographically. And I just always liked that idea of neighbor as a verb. And so, if verb means coordinating, getting this Menorah repaired, then that's what I’m going to do. I’m going to neighbor well,” says Rowley.

The Menorah will now stand proudly in the temple, a reminder not only of the history it’s come from but also of the power of community members to come together and make a change.