Our unique history shows how we are surrounded by opportunities to step back in time and appreciate our past. We can also savor the present and see how today’s congregation has committed to maintaining our foundation and strives toward preserving and enhancing our future.
Jews arrived in the historic seaport of Georgetown SC in the mid 1700's and by 1800, were a small but important portion of the population. Abraham and Solomon Cohen, along with Mordecai Myers, were some of the founders of the early mercantile business in Georgetown.
Although proportionally only 10% of the white population, Jews held a disproportionately large role in civic life. Before the beginning of the 20th century, there had been 5 Jewish mayors of the city: Solomon Cohen, Abraham Myers, Aaron Lopez, Solomon Cohen, Jr., and Louis Ehrich. In the recent 20th century, Sylvan Rosen was the 6th Jewish mayor of Georgetown. His brother, Meyer Rosen, practiced law in an office on Screven Street. Over time, many of the children of these families grew up and moved away, leaving a declining Jewish population.
Five faithful members of the founding families, we affectionately call the "Elders:" Rita Fogel, Alwyn Goldstein, Philip Schneider, Myer Rosen, and Debbie Abrams, continued to hold services every Friday night. The future looked grim. Beth Elohim had even given away one of its Torahs and was considering closing its doors and selling the building. With an influx of new people to the Grand Strand in the early 2000's, and the leadership of Elizabeth Moses, there has been growth in the community and a need has been fulfilled.
There is now a temple community of 43 families who are involved in the congregation. Services are held every Friday night and an Oneg (social function following services) is held the second and fourth Friday of each month. A great deal of work has been done to maintain and enhance the building and grounds, as well as to the interior. In 2015, the David and Kathryn Kossove Social Hall replaced the outdated one. Our congregation continues to be proud of Temple Beth Elohim's history and continuously strives to ensure its future.
The historic Beth Elohim Cemetery, located on the corner of Broad and Duke Streets, was established in 1772 and is the second oldest Jewish burial site in the state. It contains the graves of three of Georgetown's six Jewish mayors and many Confederate soldiers.
The Jewish Historical Society of South Carolina, http://jhssc.org has conducted extensive research on Georgetown's historic Jewish cemetery. Click on the link to see the headstones and names of the people buried at this beautiful and tranquil location.
Cemetery plots may be purchased by contacting Seymour Birnbaum, 843-520-1528. Information concerning Burial rights, Rules and Regulations, Fee Schedule, and a schematic of burial plot locations is also available.
All plots include perpetual care and will be available to current members of Temple Beth Elohim and to Jewish non-temple members at a higher cost.
Temple Beth Elohim, of Georgetown, South Carolina, was established in 1904 when the Jews of Georgetown, who were worshiping in peoples' homes and at the Winyah Indigo Society, formalized their congregation by becoming the sister temple to Charleston's Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim. We still pride ourselves for continuing that relationship and commemorate our interesting history.
Our congregation represents a diverse population. Many of our members settled here from around the country and are comforted to find a congregation in which connections are easily made and a surrogate family quickly takes root.
We are proud of our members born and raised in the South, those coming here from other areas, and our "snowbirds" who spend quality time with us for part of the year. Southern hospitality abounds in Georgetown, so please take advantage of the contact Information on this web site. Let us hear from you by phone, e-mail or a visit!