Friday, December 7, 2012

Genealogical Query: Chester V. Joseph

Minute book housed at the AJA

This week I received an email from the Noble County Genealogical Society regarding a researcher looking for Chester V. Joseph. Apparently, Mr. Joseph was born in Indianapolis and was married in Ligonier. It was her hope that she could track down some records of Mr. Joseph in Ligonier. 

Last year I travelled to the American Jewish Archives (AJA) in Cincinnati to look at the Ahavas Sholom minutes book which is held in their collection. I photographed all 141 pages which are hand written and quite difficult to read. Needless to say, as a volunteer, I haven't gone through the whole book. However, it is accessible at any time at the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati.

I took a look at "The Jews of Ligonier: An American Experience" by Lois Fields Schwartz  (published 1978) which lists who is buried in the cemetery. There are no Josephs listed there. I also took a look at "Intimate Circles: Nineteenth-Century German Jewish Immigrants in Northeastern Indiana" by Judith Saul Stix (published 1989) Stix recorded marriages in Ligonier between 1859-1899. There were no Josephs listed there.

As an aside, I recommended she check out wedding newspaper announcements for the year the Josephs were married in Ligonier. I will continue to think about other resources to consult.  

Sunday, November 11, 2012

First work day: success!

Jerry, Jeana, Everett, Angie, Ann and I worked for a good part of Saturday organizing the historical society's collections inside the Ahavas Sholom temple. We started out with a short overview, from the American Association (Alliance) of Museums, on the importance of organizing, cataloging, and registering the collections for future generations. Basically, without information about the objects and knowing what their significance is, many objects have minimal historical value.

With this first pass at organizing, we sorted the objects into the following categories: Jewish community, Ligonier people, City of Ligonier, businesses in Ligonier, Ligonier area schools, non-Ligonier history, and "unknown". Our biggest obstacle was staying on-task! It was very tempting to sit and read the very ledgers, letters, and books we were supposed to be sorting!

Regardless of this temptation, we got a LOT done. I think we should be able to organize all the collections during our next work day (December 15) and begin registering the objects with unique numbers! Many thanks to all the volunteers!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Temple volunteers to organize museum collections

Our project team has agreed on the following Saturdays to get together for all-day organization workshops at Ahavas Sholom. We plan to sift through and organize all the objects and papers in the collections and catalog them in a simple and accessible way. Our methods will employ both archival as well as museum collections cataloging best practices with our goal of implementing a digital cataloging system in the near future. Finally, all the graduate classes I took at The George Washington University on collections management and registration will pay off!  

Workshop Saturdays:

November 10, 2012
December 15, 2012
January 19, 2013
February 16, 2013
March 23, 2013
April 13, 2013

Monday, September 10, 2012

Expert Provides Analysis of Temple's Stained Glass

The three large windows in the Temple depict
scenes from King David's life.
Last week, Jed picked up Jules Mominee at the Goshen airport (Jules has his own plane!). Jules came from the Mominee stained glass Studios in Evansville, Indiana. and is finishing his PhD in stained glass conservation at Ball State. After Jules had a chance to check out the windows at Ahavas Sholom, he called to give me the run-down. The windows are original to the building and are most likely from a stained glass factory out of Kokomo, Indiana. I'm sure I can find out more details on this in the information I collected at the archives in Cincinnati. There are a few pieces of antique glass which were integrated into the design, but most are contemporary to 1889. He did notice that there were a few replacement pieces- most notably at the bottom center of each panel. Jules suggested that these pieces were used to replace those which might have had donors names written on them, possibly in Hebrew. The pieces were probably replaced in the 1950s when the temple was sold to a church. The vitreous painted glass (the panes which depict clothing and other designs) seem to be in good shape. However, those panes which were painted with enamels, such as the faces and other flesh tones, are showing a bit of flaking. He recommended that we be very careful when cleaning the glass, especially in these areas. The lead composition is still holding up and has not oxidized much.

My main concern when I called Jules was the bowing at the bottom of the panels. Jules recognized this and explained that the bowing is due to the panels being a bit too large for the T-bars that were chosen to support them when they were installed. These bars have sagged and constantly push on the stained glass at the bottom of the panels. However, this was not Jules' main concern. He stated that the biggest issue with the windows was the fact that the windows are covered with plexiglass storm windows on the outside. These storm windows, although they have helped prevent breakage, have actually damaged the stained glass by trapping heat and moisture inside. He noticed the damage this has caused by the deteriorating putty between the lead and glass on the outside. In the end, he recommends replacing the storm windows with a specific window that is designed to help increase ventilation and keep the stained glass from enduring harsh temperature and humidity conditions while at the same time, protecting them from outside elements. He estimated that if we were to replace the storm windows, the stained glass would last for another 40-50 years without any other remedies. If we leave the windows as they are, they will most definitely need to be restored in 20 years. On overall restoration like this is quite costly. It is obvious that we need to begin looking into new storm windows to protect the beautiful stained glass at Ahavas Sholom. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

A weekend of Indiana's Historic Synagogues!

Beth El, 1925, Indianapolis
Temple Israel, 1867, West Lafayette
This Labor Day weekend, I met with Isaiah Kuperstein and his wife Elana at the Ahavas Sholom synagogue building. Thankfully, Jed Mast was there to help us into the building. Isaiah is currently working on a project to help restore the 1925 Beth El temple on 34th and Ruckles streets in Indianapolis and create a new Jewish Heritage museum. We had a wonderful meeting at Ahavas Sholom, with the Marshmallow Festival going on nearby! Jed and I were also joined by Cyndi, Everett, and Jerry who are on our project team. It was great to catch up with them a bit and to brainstorm about our next meeting and next steps for the synagogue project. Isaiah got me thinking about the oldest synagogue building- created to be a synagogue- that is still standing in Indiana.

After our visit, he inquired about this synagogue and I sent him the information about Temple Israel's 1867 building in West Lafayette. This building is 22 years older than our Ahavas Sholom building in Ligonier. Of course there is a reason why I prefaced the above with "created to be a synagogue that is still standing." Temple Israel is in fact not the oldest synagogue in Indiana. This title belongs to Achduth VeSholom in Fort Wayne. I met with Rabbi Javier Cattapan at Achuduth VeSholom this past Friday and received a tour of their museum located at their 1961 synagogue built on 10 beautiful acres. This congregation, the oldest in Indiana, purchased an empty German Methodist Church and dedicated it as a synagogue in 1857 (a decade older than Temple Israel). However, this congregation did not actually build their own synagoge building until 1874. Unfortunately for those interested in historic architecture, both of these buildings in Fort Wayne have been demolished. The Achduth VeSholom congregation is currently in the midst of revitalizing their museum and are welcoming both the Jewish Federation and the Jewish Historical Society of Indiana onto their synagogue campus. I wish I could spend every holiday weekend learning about local Jewish History, and meeting brilliant new people who are passionate about celebrating diversity in Indiana!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Area Rabbi visits Ahavas Sholom

It is unfortunate that I missed Shaul Solomon's recent visit to the Ahavas Sholom synagogue building. He and a friend of his, the self-proclaimed "Roving Rabbis," came to visit Ligonier and emailed me wondering if there were any Jews left in the city or if I knew of any families who had connections to the founding members of the Jewish congregation of Ligonier. I replied that although most of Ligonier's Jews left in the 1950s for places like Chicago, Indianapolis, South Bend, and Ft. Wayne, there is one woman from Fort Wayne who I know of who has a direct connection to Ligonier and remembers the last Jewish service in the building. I followed this up with inviting him to participate on a panel or conduct a talk about religious diversity and tolerance from the 1850s to present times. Hopefully we'll hear back and be able to organize an event for the Ligonier community!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Field Trip Guide

Patrick with the Noble County Visitor's Bureau just emailed me asking for a revision of the short blurb description of the Ahavas Sholom building and Ligonier Historical Museum. This blurb will be part of a Field Trip Guide that is sent to area school groups. I think this is a great opportunity for kids to come into the synagogue and learn more about Jewish history! I came up with this and sent it to him:

The Ligonier Historical Museum is located in the synagogue building of the Jewish congregation, Ahavas Sholom. Built in 1889, the synagogue is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and showcases beautiful stained glass windows depicting the life of King David. The museum displays artifacts from the Jewish community in Ligonier from 1850-1950. Here, students can learn more about Jewish history and faith.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Moveable Feast! Saturday, July 21, 3:30

I am excited to be attending the Moveable Feast in Ligonier and its surrounding neighborhoods this Saturday, July 21. The feast begins with a walking tour of Ligonier's Jewish sites at 3:30. We will have appetizers at the Ahavas Sholom synagogue building begininning at 4:30. The group can also grab a bite to eat before dinner at the Solomon Meir Mansion just down the street. Solomon Meir was one of the influential Jews in Ligonier during the late 1800s and helped build the economy of the city as well as the synagogue building itself. After this we will relocate for dinner at the 1839 Stone's Trace Historic Tavern. I haven't visited Stone's trace in about 25 years, so this will be a wonderful experience for me to see this amazing historic site as an adult. Dessert will be located at two sites: The 1879 Kimmel House Inn and the 1930 Luckey Hospital. While I've had lunch and tea several times at Kimmel House over the years, I've never had the chance to visit the Luckey Hospital. This hospital was run by my best friend's (Tina Luckey) ancestors. Tina came from a long line of incredible local doctors.

In preparation for the Moveable Feast, a few folks asked me for some ideas for recipes for the appetizers served at the Ahavas Sholom building. I was drawn to the 1901 "Settlement Cookbook." This cookbook was used by Jewish immigrants across the US and most definitely by those in Ligonier at the time. When sifting through the pages, I found recipes for noodle puddings, a variety of kuchens, hearty soups, and even instructions for how to buy and cook meat and fish. As an added bonus, the cookbook claims to be THE way to a man's heart!

I was surprised at how easy it was to reserve my tickets online for the event. I simply went to  made a few clicks! I purchased four tickets for my parents and fiance, you should hurry up and purchase yours!

Next steps

As you might know, I met with two architects at the synagogue building and they were both really helpful. Both replied to their initial survey of the building that it was in good shape from what they could tell. Therefore, I think we should move on to an inspector or individual professionals who can give us objective advice on the status of the windows, roof, brick work, foundation, HVAC, plumbing, and electric. If one individual cannot address all of these areas, finding someone to look at each category might take time. I'm assuming that a traditional inspector would be able to provide the status of the roof, brick work, foundation, HVAC, plumbing, and electric, but the windows we might want to consult a professional stained glass artisan.

I believe, with the current monies from the Landmarks Fund we can pay for the inspector. However, there is no "one" grant we can apply for to pull off the whole museum concept. We will have to apply for separate grants for each steps of the project. These steps may include: 1. Restore/stabilize exterior, 2. Restore stabilize interior, 3. organize and preserve collections (both Jewish and non-Jewish), 4. Set up temporary exhibit, 5. Plan permanent exhibit.

While this makes things a bit more complicated, it also makes the project a bit more digestible- tiny bites seem much more doable than applying for really competitive large sums of money. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Advance Leader and Indy Star

Jerry Nesbitt and Jed Mast at the Ligonier Public Library sent me this clipping from I thought I'd post it here along with my response to Bob Buttgen at the Advance Leader in Ligonier who asked me to respond to some questions about how the proposed project would affect the Ligonier Historical Society, the Library, and the archival collections. I've summarized my comments to Bob below:

Right now we have been awarded an Indiana Landmarks Endangered Places Grant in the amount of $1750. These initial funds will help provide honoraria to architects for their help in recommending a scope of work and budget to stabilize the building structure. I don't have specifics yet, but the architects were very impressed by the way the Ligonier community has taken care of the building. It is in incredible condition and is a physical testament to the community's commitment to historic preservation of a sacred space. But, being built in 1889, there are some regular maintenance issues that need to be addressed. The architects acknowledged that the building needs a new roof (which might have originally been slate), some plaster on the interior needs to be repaired due to water damage, and some masonry needs restorative tuck-pointing. The stained glass windows currently have protective glass covering them. However, with recent archival techniques, we can replace this glass with glass including UV protection to prevent the windows from fading due to the sun's rays. Several of the windows are bowing around the bottom panes which will need to be stabilized by a professional. In addition, the front doors to the building do not have an appropriate seal, allowing bugs and the elements to freely come into the building. 
The Ligonier History Museum will most definitely benefit from any renovations of the Ahavas Sholom building. The Library owns the building, so the Library too will benefit from the renovations. Included in a grant proposal will be a line item to organize and provide adequate storage and display of the Historical Society collections. Whether or not the Ligonier Historical Society collections will stay in the Ahavas Sholom building, or being relocated, has not been determined. At the end of the day, that's putting the cart before the horse! If we are awarded the monies- the building must first be stabilized and the collections of the Ligonier History Museum will ONLY be enhanced and showcased for the community education and enjoyment.  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Initial architect meeting on Friday

This Friday, I will be meeting with an architect for an initial walk-through of the synagogue building. We hope to determine and rough budget and a scope of work in order to apply for additional funding. Fingers-crossed!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

We made the headlines!

Projects in six cities receive Endangered Places grants

Media Contact:
Todd Zeiger, Director, Indiana Landmarks Northern Regional Office 574-232-4534,

Indiana Landmarks recently awarded Endangered Places Grants to preservation projects in six cities, including Elkhart and Ligonier.

The Elkhart Redevelopment Commission received a $2,500 grant for a structural analysis of a vacant structure at 200 North Main Street on the city’s River Walk. Known as The Armory although never officially used as one, the building was constructed c.1885. In 1911, the structure was doubled in size with an addition designed by Elkhart architect E. Hill Turnock. The study will assess the cost of stabilization and the landmark’s viability for reuse. The grant will be matched by $500 from the Downtown TIF district.

A coalition of organizations in Ligonier are partnering to restore a landmark that represents the community’s Jewish heritage. The coalition, led by the Ligonier Public Library, received a $1,750 Endangered Places grant to develop renovation plans for the 1889 Ahavas Sholom Temple.

The coalition will use the grant to assess the landmark’s potential for adaptation as a museum honoring the community’s Jewish heritage, with interactive exhibits to promote respect and mutual understanding among the city’s diverse ethnic groups. Other partners in the project include the Future Ligonier Alliance, Ligonier Historical Society, and Noble County Visitors Bureau.

Indiana Landmarks makes Endangered Places matching grants to nonprofit organizations for feasibility studies and other activities related to saving landmarks and strengthening preservation groups. Other recent grant recipients include organizations in Indianapolis, Martinsville, New Albany and Seymour.

To learn more about The Armory project in Elkhart, contact Barkley Garrett, City Economic Development Manager, 574-294-5471,  For information on the reuse of Ligonier’s Ahavas Sholom Temple, contact Wendy Fergusson,

For information on Indiana Landmarks’ grant programs, contact Todd Zeiger, director in Indiana Landmarks’ Northern Regional Office in South Bend, 574-232-4534,

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Grant money awarded!

Last week I received the following message from our representative at the Indiana Landmarks office:

The grant request for the Ahavath Scholom Temple was approved at a reduced level yesterday. Our Endangered Places Grant fund is unusually low this year and all requests that are coming in are facing reductions in the amount. The grant was approved for $1,750. 
While this certainly won't get the project to a set of construction drawings - working with an interested architect who may be willing to contribute some of their time - you should be able to get a good overview of the condition of the building and the potential for use as envisioned. 

Although we didn't receive all of the money we had hoped for, what great news! We are certainly able to obtain a survey by a building inspector, a stability status report from an historic preservationist, as well as a report from a structural engineer. We will begin working on these reports as soon as we receive the check from the Indiana Landmarks office which should be within the month. 

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Grant Proposal Submitted!

After emailing off a batch of materials this morning, I received this message from our representative at the Indiana Landmarks office: "Got it. Looks excellent. I will get it submitted. We meet on March 14th and I'll follow up after that with you. Thanks for all the effort." 

Needless to say, I'm excited and thankful to everyone for helping me put together the grant materials! Here is a section from the grant proposal that details what we hope to accomplish with the $3,000 if awarded:

 This grant proposal targets the preparation needed before embarking on our project. Preparations include consulting a professional architectural team in cooperation with a structural engineer to conduct a feasibility study and facility assessment. Both of these studies are needed to determine the architectural stability of the building, including the stability status of the stained glass windows which are currently bowing, exterior brickwork which needs tuck-pointing, and the basement foundation which shows signs of leaking water. It will also help provide recommendations for bringing the building up to code, suggest solutions to accessibility concerns to the lower level, and determine the costs of renovating, and possibly expanding, the lower level.  The grant money will also help us begin to consult a museum exhibition designer to begin work on a concept-stage master plan. This master plan will determine our dollar per-square-foot of exhibits ratio and will also be a useful tool to use as we continue fundraising.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Meeting at Ligonier Public Library

On Saturday, I met with the Ligonier Public Library committee. I reviewed two presentations from last year about the museum concept and proposal and I also discussed possible grant opportunities for professionals to provide structural stability studies on the synagogue building. Upon further discussion, I found out that the building is actually endangered. The roof needs to be repaired, the stained glass windows are bowing, the basement has water leaks, and the bricks and masonry need tuck-pointing. Now it is even more important that we employ the help of these professionals to help us determine the actual needs of the building. If you are familiar with the building and know of any other structural issues, can you please discuss this on the "discussion board" tab of this site? All thoughts are appreciated!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Sundays at Sinai, a new book by Tobias Brinkmann

I am anxiously awaiting the new book by Tobias Brinkmann at Penn State, entitled Sundays at Sinai. I am hoping that Brinkmann's book will provide a model to tell the story of Ahavas Sholom.

Here's what U. Chicago Press has to say about the new gem they are publishing this summer:

First established 150 years ago, Chicago Sinai is one of America’s oldest Reform Jewish congregations. Its founders were upwardly mobile and civically committed men and women, founders and partners of banks and landmark businesses like Hart Schaffner & Marx, Sears & Roebuck, and the giant meatpacking firm Morris & Co. As explicitly modern Jews, Sinai’s members supported and led civic institutions and participated actively in Chicago politics. Perhaps most radically, their Sunday services, introduced in 1874 and still celebrated today, became a hallmark of the congregation.

In Sundays at Sinai, Tobias Brinkmann brings modern Jewish history, immigration, urban history, and religious history together to trace the roots of radical Reform Judaism from across the Atlantic to this rapidly growing American metropolis.  Brinkmann shines a light on the development of an urban reform congregation, illuminating Chicago Sinai’s practices and history, and its contribution to Christian-Jewish dialogue in the United States. Chronicling Chicago Sinai’s radical beginnings in antebellum Chicago to the present, Sundays at Sinai is the extraordinary story of a leading Jewish Reform congregation in one of America’s great cities.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

A visit to the American Jewish Archives

On Thursday of this week, I took a 2 hour drive to Cincinnati to visit the American Jewish Archives (AJA) at Hebrew Union College. The Ahavath Scholom congregation files are held here and I wanted to take a look. Well, the first thing I found out was that the congregation actually spelled their name "Ahavas Sholom." I first noticed a discrepancy in the spelling over a year ago when I recognized the differences between what was listed in the National Registry of Historic Places, what the Auditor's website lists, and what the synagogue is commonly referred to in Ligonier. For my purposes, I am going to go by the historical documents. This is prompting me to do a bit of name replacing on the blog as well as in my grant materials that are being sent out next month.

The Ahavas Sholom folio at AJA (1890-1935)
The majority of the Ahavas Sholom holdings at AJA were compiled for the Ligonier centennial in 1935. There were about 200 pieces of paper included in this folder and I took digital photos of every piece. The setting was perfect actually.  I grabbed a table that had sunlight pouring in- and in this way, I think I was able to capture some wonderful details of the documents.

Upon first glance, it looks as if the documents are primarily synagogue meeting minutes and recordings of donation amounts by various families. There were also a few invoices and receipts from vendors who must have worked with the congregation on projects for the synagogue and cemetery.

Now that I've taken all the photos- it's time to get down to work and actually READ! I can't wait to see what treasures are hidden in the folder and when I do uncover them, I will be sure to post the findings here. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Indiana Landmarks Endangered Places Grant

Today I spoke with Todd Zeiger, the Director of the Northern Regional office of Indiana Landmarks. We spoke a little bit about the details of the project but more in-depth about applying for an Endangered Places grant. He will be emailing me the application for this grant (a 4-1 matching grant up to $2,500) and I have already begun to compile the materials needed. If awarded, this money will be used to consult professional architects and structural engineers to determine the feasibility of the project and the stability of the building.