Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Cotopaxi had a synagogue, an Ark, a Torah, and a Rabbi!

I don't necessarily believe everything I read in the newspaper today.....but I tend to think they were a bit more factual back in the 1880s!

We know there was a rabbi - Rabbi David Grupitsky, who later changed his surname to Krupitsky.  His descendants have shortened it to Krup.  He signed all 3 marriage certificates.  Not only that, he is listed as the rabbi in the Julius Schwartz report dated October, 1882.

I found a newspaper article dated July 1882 and here are some quotes from it:
... and return to Cotopaxi, the place where the little but handsome synagogue stands.  
... The procession then entered the synagogue 
... opened the Ark, and after having chanted several hymns placed the Thora in its place,
...the first Thora in the Rocky Mountains, the first Synagogue under the snowtipped summits of Fremont County, Colorado
... Rev. Dr. Baar, who presented the colony with a fine and beautiful Scroll.  The Holy Law arrived in Cotopaxi on the 20th of June,
There have been those who have stated that the synagogue was the school.  This article would make it seem that it was a separate building.

There have been those who have stated that there was no Rabbi.  Yet there was!

And now we see that the synagogue had an Ark
The Holy Ark (Aron Kodesh), where the Torah Scrolls are kept, is situated in the front of the synagogue. The Ark is the holiest place in the Synagogue.In most synagogues the Holy Ark is on the Eastern wall, so that when we face the ark, we are facing the holy city of Jerusalem, where the Holy Temple once stood.The curtain that covers the ark is called the Parochet. It symbolizes the curtain that was in the Holy Temple. As it is written (Exodus 40:21), "He brought the ark into the Tabernacle and placed the screening dividing curtain so that it formed a protective covering before the Ark..."The ark is only opened during special prayers and when removing the Torah to read during prayer services.
If you don't know what a Thora/Torah is, click here - at a minimum it's the first 5 books of the Old Testament in the form of a scroll.

We do not know (yet) what happened to this Torah.  It could have been buried in the cemetery at Cotopaxi.  It could have followed the colonists to one of their destinations.  It could have been returned to it's origins in NYC.

As you read this original newspaper article about the procession the night they dedicated their Torah, imagine the beauty of the ceremony - that Cotopaxi was such a holy place - that these Jews were so dedicated to their beliefs......
The Holy Law arrived in Cotopaxi on the 20th of June, and the 23d, Friday, was chosen solemnly to dedicate the Sephar Thora .
Of course the Secretary of the colony, Mr. Schwarz, immediately extended the thanks of the colonists to the donor and ordered the colonists, who during the week are generally at work on their respective lands, to leave work and return to Cotopaxi, the place where the little but handsome synagogue stands.  Two hours before the entering of the Sabbath, all of the colonists were in the parlor of Mr. Hart, who assisted by his family, helped Mr. Schwarz in his endeavors to regulate the religious life of the colonists according to the laws and ordinances of the olden times.  At 5:30, the procession was formed as follows:   First marched the elders of the colonists, each with a candle in their hands, then came a Chuppa, the four poles carried by four single men of the colonists, and after that the women and children of the colonists.  The procession then entered the synagogue and several psalms were sung, and the Russians chanted those peculiar Jewish melodies which so deeply move the Jewish heart.  Then the untiring young Secretary—the first Thora in the Rocky Mountains, the first Snyagogue under the snowtipped summits of Fremont County, Colorado.  Mr. Schwarz delivered a prayer, in which he expressed his gratitude to Rev. Dr. Baar and implored God to help the poor refugees and all Israel.  En Kelohenu was sung, and the colonists convened in Mr. Hart’s dining room, where they partook of a beautiful luncheon.  Mrs. Hart and her daughter, Miss Hart, waited on the poor refugees, whose happy features showed that they never will forget this beautiful day.  After luncheon Mr. Hart said grace, and then the field overseer of the colony, Mr. Leon Tobias, arose and in appropriate words thanked Mr. and Mrs. Hart for their hospitality, Mr. Gershel for his kind endeavors to obtain the Sephar Thorah, Rev. Dr. Baar for his noble action, Mr. Saltiel and Mr. Schwarz and the N. Y. Committee for their zealous labors, and the Alliance Israelite Universelle in Paris for their generosity in taking care of the poor refugees. 
At 7:30, the people that filled the air with merry songs gathered in the synagogue, where Mr. Schwarz chanted the prayers to the delight of the whole attendance.  After diving service, the people took their supper and assembled on the porch, where they chanted several songs and expressed their gratitude for all that had been done to secure the success of the colony, make the poor colonists self-supporting, and keep up in them the holy fire of true religion.  Mr. Schwarz has strictly forebidden that any work shall be done on Sabbath and on holidays, and any violation of this order is liable to punishment.  They also danced in their peculiar Russian manner, and the silent moon threw its silvery rays upon dancing and singing Russians, while the proud mountains silently listened to the songs that proclaimed that there is One God who does not forsake His people.
The next morning, being Sabbath, service was held, Mr. Milchstein, one of the colonists, reading the Shacharit, and young Mr. Schwartz Mussaph.  Since human eyes have beheld the Rocky Mountains, it was the first time that the Jewish law was read in their shadow, and accompanied by the roar of teh swift Arkansas river.  After the law had been replaced, Mr. Schwarz delivered an impressive sermon, taking his text from the 35th chapter of Isaiah, verses 1, 4 and 10.
After the conclusion of the service the people dispersed to their apartments, and in the afternoon they changed psalms, and held service at 5 for Mincha and at 8 for Maarib.  Thus ended this beautiful and holy day, and all the colonists went cheerfully to work on Sunday, taking with them a light and happy heart, and the hope for a better future than the past has been for them.
I can only imagine the sheer beauty of this night.  This moment when a Torah was dedicated in Cotopaxi.  The quiet mountain air surrounding these Jews as they celebrated their joy and their hope - knowing that they were finally free from the terrorism in Russia.   I just pray that the things I write can draw you to love, admire, respect and honor the Jews who were at Cotopaxi.  That somehow, their memory becomes a blessing to you.  It certainly is to me.

Cotopaxi had an Ark, a Torah, and a Rabbi.  Pretty amazing for such a small place.

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