Members of Temple Aaron in the Southern Colorado city of Trinidad are marking a milestone as Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins. The historic 1889 temple is on its way to becoming a National Historic Landmark.
The red brick temple nearly became a bed and breakfast six years ago, because the small congregation could no longer afford to maintain the old building. It needed a new boiler, a new roof and more. The cost of repairs totaled far more than the funds on hand.
The Rubin family originally from Raton, New Mexico, were Temple Aaron congregants and looked after it for many years. After what brothers Ron and Randy Rubin thought would be the temple’s last Rosh Hashanah as a synagogue in 2016, they listed it for sale. But people from all over Colorado and the world heard about its plight and came together to rescue it.
“It's called Hashgochah or Beshert,” Ron Rubin said. “That it seems like it was in the heavens, it was something that was ordained. It was providence.”
In 2017 the temple was listed as one of Colorado's Most Endangered Places. Kim Grant directs that program for Colorado Preservation, Inc. and also serves on the temple board. He said Temple Aaron is nationally significant.
“It helps tell the story of the westward migration of the Jewish people into the southwestern United States as part of the broad pattern of settlement of the American West,” he said.
Grant said the landmark designation shows a commitment by the park service to help preserve the temple in perpetuity. In the meantime, dozens of new members and supporters helped raise enough money to replace the failing boiler. Now they are looking at more than $1 million in additional needed repairs including replacing the original metal roof with historically compatible materials.
Since 2017, the temple has hosted wedding and bar mitzvah rituals, along with holiday services and celebrations for Passover, Hanukkah and Rosh Hashanah. Ron Rubin said the new activity and support for the temple has been remarkable.
“My mother and dad would just be amazed to see the temple being used,” he said. “It's tremendous what this has meant for us that our little temple in Trinidad, Colorado would be recognized nationally as a National Historic Landmark."
The Jewish community in Trinidad is just a remnant of what it was in the early part of the last century, with only a handful of Jews still living in the area, according to Grant. But now, he said there are people coming from around the region and the country and even joining in virtually from overseas.
“We realize that we're kind of trying a new path trying to create sort of a virtual or regional congregation when we do come together,” he said. “I think we're building a community that's different than the typical synagogue that you would walk to in a big city somewhere.”
Temple Aaron’s National Historic Landmark designation is moving through the federal process and is expected to be finalized next year. Once it’s complete, it’ll join Colorado’s 26 other National Historic Landmarks and more than 2,600 nationwide, including the former headquarters of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company in Pueblo.
Ryan Warner contributed to this report.
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