8.5 Georgetown, South Carolina
Temple Beth Elohim, 230 Screven Street, corner of Screven and Highmarket streets
Architect unknown, 1950

Photo Arts, Winnsboro, South Carolina, publisher; no date. Also on the back: “Made by Dexter Press INC. West Nyack, New York. Photo by Ernest Ferguson”

This postcard—with two views—portrays two distinctive Jewish properties in Georgetown. Jewish law and tradition require all Jewish communities to designate a consecrated burial ground, and this was done in Georgetown in 1772, when a Hebrew cemetery was established at the corner of Broad and Duke streets. It is the second oldest Jewish burial site in the state and contains the graves of three of Georgetown’s seven Jewish mayors and several Confederate soldiers.

The building of a synagogue, however, is a secondary concern, and usually is accomplished only when a community is reasonably settled and of a certain size, has acquired some assets, and feels secure.

This appears to be the case in Georgetown, where significant delays occurred between the earliest Jewish settlement in the 18th century, the founding of Congregation Beth Elohim in 1904, and its formal incorporation in 1921. The erection of a building to house the congregation did not occur until 1949, when the present synagogue with classrooms, kitchen, and assembly room, was finally built. Rabbi Allan Tarshish of Charleston’s K.K. Beth Elohim, who had been serving the Georgetown congregation of about 50 members once monthly, dedicated the building in 1950.

The design of the modest red brick synagogue fits comfortably with the widespread popularity of colonial forms after World War II—especially across the South. But the unadorned arching roof line of the facade also echoes the popular national synagogue style of the 1920s, evident coast to coast from Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New York to the Breed Street Synagogue in Los Angeles.

Before the dedication of Temple Beth Elohim, Jewish children traveled to Charleston for confirmation ceremonies, while the boys celebrated their b’nai mitzvah in Georgetown.