Small Town Field Trip for Fort Worth Teens

One of the foundational ideas behind the ISJL is that mid-size and large congregations should build connections to smaller Jewish communities, especially in small towns where the Jewish population is in decline.  That’s why we were so glad to see this set of pictures from the Religious School of Congregation Beth-El in Fort Worth, Texas, on their recent daytrip to nearby Corsicana.


Students and chaperones from Congregation Beth-El in Fort Worth outside Corsicana’s Temple Beth-El

We received the photographs from Hollace Weiner, archivist at Beth-El, historian of Fort Worth and Texas Jewry, and close friend of the ISJL History Department.  Describing the field trip in the Beth-El newsletter, she writes, “19 teenagers and six adults from the Religious School visited the colorful town, which is a century removed and 55 miles south of Dallas on Interstate-45.”

Students enter the sanctuary of Temple Beth-El in Corsicana, Texas.

Students enter the sanctuary of Temple Beth-El in Corsicana, Texas.

The group’s tour guide was Babette Samuels, one of four remaining Corsicana Jews.  Babette, originally from Port Arthur, Texas, is also a friend of the ISJL, having shared a delightful oral history with us in July 2010.

Temple Beth-El, in Corsicana, Texas, is notable for its twin onion domes.

Temple Beth-El, in Corsicana, Texas, is notable for its twin onion domes.  Photo from the ISJL archives.

The students and chaperones viewed the beautiful “Byzantine-style” synagogue of Corsicana’s Temple Beth-El, which, as Hollace writes, “was built in 1900, restored in the 1980s, and deeded to the city to use as a cultural and community center. An architectural gem, the white clapboard synagogue has two onion-domed towers and three Tiffany stained-glass windows. It is the last synagogue in the Southwest with such lofty Moorish-revival domes.”

The Tiffany windows in Corsicana's Temple Beth-El.

The Tiffany windows in Corsicana’s Temple Beth-El.

In addition to her extensive knowledge of Corsicana’s Jewish history, Babette is also very involved with the upkeep of the Corsicana Hebrew Cemetery, which was the next stop on the group’s field trip. Following the visit, the religious school made a donation to the Corsicana Hebrew Cemetery Association.

Ilana Knust and Babette Samuels

Ilana Knust, religious school director for Congregation Beth-El in Fort Worth, stands with Babette Samuels in Corsicana’s Jewish cemetery.

Thanks to Hollace Weiner and the Beth-El religious school for sharing this story with us.  It is great to see Jewish teens learning about small-town Jewish life!

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