FORT MILL --
Fort Mill’s newest Jewish congregation has doubled in size and moved into what it hopes will be a long-term home, sharing space with Saint Philip Neri Catholic Church.
Temple Solel, a Reform Jewish congregation founded in May, recently moved its services and other activities to Saint Philip Neri from space at the Leroy Springs Recreation Complex. Membership and attendance has increased with the move; leaders report as many as 45 people attend weekly temple services, representing about 20 families.
The congregation held its first public meeting in May with about 14 people attending.
“Things are going really, really well,” membership Chairman Renee Feitelberg said. “We’re very happy.”
Temple members say Saint Philip Neri’s members have been gracious to allow the use of a classroom where they can meet, as well as store equipment under lock and key for safety – something temporary facilities couldn’t offer.
In most areas of the South, the Jewish population is a fraction of what it is in some Northern cities, and that can be the source of misunderstandings between people of the Jewish and Christian faiths. But in Fort Mill, Temple Solel members say their relationship with Saint Philip Neri has been well-received and beneficial.
“We spoke to Father John (Giuliani), and he was happy to help another Fort Mill congregation,” said Temple Solel president James Fox.
During the holiday season, the two faiths celebrate very different traditions, with Hanukah and Christmas. But Fox says sharing facilities, even at this time of year, has been a blessing.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to be able to teach the differences,” he said.
For years, Fort Mill and surrounding communities in York County lacked any Jewish temples. Now Jewish families have two – Temple Kol Ami in Fort Mill and the newer Temple Solel. Solel is a Reform Jewish community, meaning it applies Jewish teachings and traditions more liberally, with an eye on applying traditions to modern society.
For Temple Solel, the growth and new home has helped many activities get off the ground, including several fundraisers and community outreach events.
The congregation holds Shabbat services the second and fourth Fridays of each month led by lay people. It recently launched a religious school and soon will hold its first bar mitzvah, a coming-of-age ceremony in which a 13 year-old crosses the threshold into a place of higher responsibility.
It also now has a Torah to use in its services; it’s on loan from the Institute for Southern Jewish Learning.