PHILIPSBURG – From some 50 families in 1957 to only three or four today, Philipsburg’s Jewish community has undergone a dramatic decline over the past half century.
Still alive and well, however, is a wealth of stories from the old days, and a very lively storyteller to relate them, in the person of Elaine Navasky Ziff, who will be the featured speaker at the annual dinner of the Philipsburg Historical Foundation at 6 p.m. Oct. 7 at the Elks Country Club in Philipsburg.
“Everyone over a certain age in Philipsburg remembers shopping at Adelman & Ratowsky Department Store,” says Ziff, “Or maybe working at Pennshire Clothing, buying groceries from Dave Solomon, or having a tooth filled by Dr. Sam Stein.
“In addition, there was the Jewish Community Center and the Sons of Israel Synagogue on Sixth Street, where Jewish religious life was centered on the Sabbath and the High Holy Days.
“My talk will deal with the Jewish community’s origins in Eastern Europe, the various means by which its original members came to America, and the paths they followed to economic success.
“Also featured and on display will be objects, such as the original 1912 charter of the Sons of Israel congregation, and its shofar, or ram’s horn, used to summon the community. We have discovered numerous photos and tales in the course of researching this topic.
“Our beloved synagogue closed many years ago, in 1996, but its beautiful carved Ark of the Torah, from the late 1800’s, has found a new home with a synagogue in Mentor, Ohio.”
“No one who’s interested in Philipsburg history will want to miss this exciting presentation,” says PHF President Susan Allport Schneider. “We’re particularly fortunate to have Elaine Ziff as our speaker this year, since she and husband, Phil, are planning to move to Florida full time, with only short visits up North in the summer.
“We’re taking this opportunity to ask anyone with photos or documents on the Jewish community to donate them or lend them for copying. To really get into the spirit of the event, you might read Rita Roth’s memoir 414 Pine Street, about a young Jewish girl growing up in Philipsburg during the Depression. This book is available at Amazon.com, and at the Philipsburg Public Library.”
Tickets at $25 each for the dinner, a choice of stuffed chicken breast or roast beef, will go on sale immediately, and may be obtained from a PHF board member, or by calling 814-342-2480 or 814-342-4842. Guests are asked to RSVP by Sept. 29.