In Bentonville, Arkansas, the heart of the Bible Belt and the location of Wal-Mart headquarters, there are 39 Baptist, 27 United Methodist and 20 Assembly of God churches. And one synagogue. And one Chabad shteibel. The synagogue, opened by Jewish Wal-Mart employees 2 years ago, is actually called Congregation Etz Chaim and not Temple Beth Wal-Mart. The 100 members of the synagogue have already had quite an impact amongst the residents of Bentonville and their interest in Jewish worship has attracted officials from the Conservative and Reform movements who would like to have the synagogue affiliate with their movements, as well as the aforementioned Chabad shaliach who runs his own thing out of his house.
The synagogue is officially non-denominational, but their Rabbi who comes in once a month is Conservative and the congregation allows photography (without flash) during sabbath services. This little blip of a Jewish community has members who have opened a Jewish (not kosher) deli (serving knishes and latkes, pronounced “LOT-kuz” if you’re a sheigetz), and have engaged their neighboursin interfaith dialogue.
So far, no one’s been lynched, so it’s looking good! Read all about it in The New York Times.
Thanks to Tina and Shlomo for the head’s up!