Marshall - Moses Montefiore Congregation

By Robert P. Davis, Architect
revised 24 Oct 1996

  

Unfortunately this lovely and architecturally distinctive synagogue was demolished by the remnants of its congregation in the early '70's, just a few years before the fashion for historic preservation reached the town. To the few who were left the problem of repair and upkeep on a rapidly deteriorating building seemed insurmountable, and the decision was made with great sadness.

The original structure was completed in 1900 by local architect, C. G. Lancaster, who designed many prominent buildings in Marshall. The congregation requested a round building but because of cost got a rounded one instead. It's hard to know if the Moorish/Gothic elements were part of some genre or meant to lend an exotic flavor to the building. Whatever was intended the effect was (from pictures) charming. Note the hexagonal pavers leading to the front steps--a feature mentioned by everyone who recalled the building details.

The sectional view is from the opposite direction of the birdseye view above. The ark stands in an apse on the east, opposite the choir loft and Tracker organ (pipes omitted to show rose window) on the west. In the original the plaster corners at the intersections of the roof planes were rounded to give the impression of arched vaults. Please see the navigable QTVR model (requires QuickTime) (500k).

An annex with social hall, stage, kitchen, and rabbi's study was built in 1930 with money raised largely through the sale of (Mabel Stein's) hot tamales, made and sold by the Sisterhood.

  • Cut 8 lb. brisket and 5 lb. chuck roast into hand-size pcs and put in boiling, salted water with 3-4 cut garlic pods, 1/2 can tomatoes, 2 hot dried chili peppers, 3 oz. chili powder. Cover meat with water, cook 2 hrs or until tender, refrigerate overnight. Skim off fat from broth and remove fat from meat and save.
  • Grind meat, all skimmed, trimmed, and seasoned fat, and some trimmings with 15-20 garlic pods. Add 6 oz. chili powder, 4 tbsp. ground cumin, 2 cans tomato sauce, 1 tbsp. oregano, 4 tbsp. cumin seeds, 1 tbsp. crushed red pepper. Adjust seasonings to taste. Add enough strained, heated broth to make mixture juicy. Simmer in large, flat pan till flavors have blended and liquid has cooked down.
  • Mush 8 c. white cornmeal, paprika for color, chili powder to make orange colored, salt to taste, 1 c. shortening. Mix with boiling broth to consistency of mush. Prepare corn husks by covering with boiling water to soften. Lay large husk (or 2 small ones) flat, smear with mush in half-moon shape, place 1+ tsp.meat on mush, roll and tie with strips of husk fiber.
  • Invert metal pie tin (or crushed foil) in bottom of large kettle. On top of pie tin (or foil) layer tamales, covering them with broth, then laying plate on top of them. Heat 45 minutes. For more broth boil a shinbone with seasonings. (courtesy of Joan Jones, Audrey Kariel)

Jews had already achieved commercial prominence before the Civil War. This theater and others as well as Weisman's, a Nieman-Marcus-like emporium, flourished in the '20's. Louis Kariel Jr., proprietor of the Hub Shoe Store (since 1897) is about all that's left.

Audrey Daniels Kariel is now, as her father-in-law Louis Weisman Kariel Sr. was in the '30's, mayor of Marshall. She has more than atoned for the congregation's letting their treasure slip away by taking a leading position in civic preservation and new construction.

  

The cemetery, beautifully situated and maintained, is a place of local pride, and one of four Jewish historic landmarks designated by the State in Marshall. And at right is all that remains on the site of the former temple now a police and fire department complex--a "Cedar of Lebanon" tree planted by the congregation just before the turn of the century.