Temple of the High Country celebrates anniversary

By Jesse Campbell (jesse.campbell@mountaintimes.com)

Article Published: Jun. 13, 2013 | Modified: Jun. 16, 2013

Before founding a permanent temple, the Boone Jewish Community made the best of what it had, even if that meant holding services wherever there was an open door.

Since 1974, the community moved from house to house and from church to church, all in an attempt to keep the fledging local denomination alive and in high spirits.

They also relied on the generosity of their Christian neighbors, who allowed them to hold services at local churches during the High Holy Days and when attendance began to grow.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and the Unitarian Fellowship welcomed the Boone Jewish Community with room to worship the way its members saw fit.

After years of operating in a rather scattered and sporadic fashion, the Jewish religious segment finally found a home and officially became known as the Temple of the High Country, which is located at 1043 W. King St. The temple opened June 2012.

“It feels wonderful to have our own home,” said Marla Gentile, the temple’s vice president. “We are eternally grateful for the churches in the area for being so amazing wonderful to us… It has helped to increase our membership because we are more visible to people than what we were. It’s really taken a life of its own since we moved into the new place.”

A $1 million donation from Bonnie and Jamie Schaefer, owners of Westglow Resort and Spa in Blowing Rock, became the impetus for the temple’s long-awaited construction.

The congregation is celebrating the temple’s one-year anniversary with a fundraiser concert at 8 p.m. Saturday, June 15. According to Jody Sloan, the temple’s publicity chairwoman, the event, “Synagogue Sonatas,” will also serve as a tribute to the memory of Rowland and Sylvia Schaefer, Bonnie Schaefer’s late parents.

World-renowned violinist Gil Morgenstern and flutist Akal Dev Sharonne will be the featured performers.

The program will include a combination of musical presentations that reflect a variety of themes, including international pieces, Jewish pieces, segments from “Porgy and Bess” and even a waltz and hoedown, according to a news release.

Tickets to Saturday’s fundraiser cost $40 and are available at the temple during office hours Tuesday morning and Thursday and Friday afternoons.

The temple’s arrival at this point marks the end of a long journey for the congregation’s search for a home. It also marks a new beginning in building attendance and meeting future goals.

“The temple has been wonderful for our membership because we were so small to begin with, and we had to keep rotating from church to church,” Sloan said.

Currently, the president of the nonprofit’s board and various congregation members lead services. A visiting rabbi is ushered in for the High Holy Days’ celebrations, Sloan said, adding that the temple hopes to raise enough funds in the near future to hire a new leader.

A new home also allows the temple to do some things it could not do previously, like hosting Hebrew school, which Sloan said prepares adolescents for their emerging adulthood.

The temple, which has a fluctuating congregation that varies with the changing of the seasons, uses partitions to provide classroom and workshop space.

Among other sacred items at the temple, the congregation takes great pride in possessing a Torah that, according to Sloan, somehow escaped Europe during the Holocaust.

For more information on the Temple of the High Country, including Saturday’s event, visit http://www.templeofthehighcountry.org or call (828) 264-8364.

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