Temple continues to raise funds

Published 10:14 am Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Temple Mishkan Israel President Ronnie Leet remains optimistic about the future of the 120-year-old building.
Nearly $10,000 have been raised for repairs since the Temple launched a GoFundMe Account nearly four weeks ago.
When the Selma Times-Journal initially reported on the Temple’s then newly launched GoFundMe, the temple had raised around $3,500.
More exposure through other local news outlets and even, according to Leet, a couple of international publications, has brought awareness to the Temple’s goal and led to more donations.
The goal on the GoFundMe may say $800,000 but Leet doesn’t want anyone to think that that’s all the funding the temple requires in order to be completely restored.
“I don’t want people to think that that’s all that needs to be done,” said Leet. “This is a $6-8 million project, just from my own thoughts and calculations.”
Leet stated that the Temple has decided to tackle the project in stages, so the end goal doesn’t discourage donors.
“If we put $6 million on there, we’d scare everyone off,” he said.
Leet said the current $800,000 goal will likely cover the roof and electrical that the building needs, to prevent further damage from occurring.
Nearly every major architectural feature, including the roof and electrical, of the building is original to when the building was constructed in 1899.
“Everything is 120 years old,” said Leet. “Except the carpet, it’s 96 years old.”
In addition to renovating the Temple, Leet hopes that one day the pink house adjacent to Temple Mishkan Israel can be turned into a museum, featuring not only the history of the temple, but the history of Selma’s Jewish community as well.
Leet would love to track down old photographs of all of Selma’s Jewish businesses and feature them in a gallery for visitors to see.
Selma was once home to several thriving Jewish businesses including the L.C. Adler Furniture Company, the Siegel Automobile Company, Benish and Meyer Tobacco and Richard Thalheimer Liquors.
“They just go on and on,” said Leet.
Leet believes that the story of Selma’s Jewish community is one that needs to be told.
“It’s a story that nobody knows about,” said Leet. “I realize that it’s not attractive to a large majority of people. There is this community around the country and around the world that don’t realize that this ever existed in Selma, Alabama.”
Leet said that he often gets phone calls from tourists who didn’t even know Selma had a Jewish Community.
After seeing the temple on the way into town or hearing about it, The Selma- Dallas County Chamber of Commerce puts people in touch with Leet who can them give them a tour of the historic building.
“It’s probably more important to me than to anyone else, but I can’t help it,” said Leet. “Especially when you’re here every day and see it.”
Leet said that he’s interested to see how things work out for the Temple.
“We’ll see where it goes,” he said. “I’m not one of these people that believes that the higher power controls everything. We control our destiny, so we’ll make it work or we won’t.”

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