When the Temple Moses Montefiore, Marshall's sole Jewish synagogue ceased in 1973 Audrey Kariel, a local historian, civic leader and a last remaining member from the congregation, knew she had to do something to preserve the town's Jewish history.
"I was building the library and our little temple was so small and we couldn't keep it up like we wanted to," Kariel said, sharing she was leading the campaign to create Marshall Public Library while simultaneously focusing on saving the temple's legacy.
"1973 was the year that the library was built and that the temple was torn down," she said, recalling how it was both a glorious, yet sad time for her.
The temple was built in 1900. The congregation, which had formed before then, had dwindled down so much towards its demise that Kariel and her husband's young children didn't have enough peers to continue their Sunday school class. When the dissolving congregation finally decided to go ahead and sell the property for what is now the city's former police and fire complex at the corner of West Burleson and Fulton Streets, Kariel knew she had to take action to keep the Jewish history alive.
"I kept saying somebody's got to do something," she said.
Being a member of the Historical Commission, at that time, and loving history, she turned to the Harrison County Historical Museum for assistance.
"I could not stand the thought of all this history just disappearing, so I started gathering up all the minute books (dating back to the 1800s) and took them to the museum," Kariel said.
On April 22, the public can view her unique, massive collection of the town's Jewish history when the new permanent exhibit, "Global Connections," debuts. The grand opening will be from 3-6 p.m. with a dedication program, beginning at 3:30 p.m.
"We, through Audrey, have invited all of the descendants that we could get in touch with so we're expecting quite a few descendants to come and be here for this event," Janet Cook, museum director, said. "They're very excited to be here."
Program participants will include Rabbi Jana De Benedetti of the B'nai Zion Congregation of Shreveport, Louisiana; Marshall Mayor Eric Neal, Gayle Weinberg, the Harrison County Commissioners Court, Sandy Touissant, and Louis Englander. Kariel, who settled in Marshall after marrying native, Louis Kariel Jr., will introduce families represented in the audience.
Through the exhibit, along with an accompanying booklet that was self-published by the museum and co-written by Kariel and Cook, the public will gain an insight on Marshall's Jewish history and the intriguing families that contributed to it.
"There have been Jewish people here since the beginning, in the 1840s, and some of them were Louis' relatives," Kariel said. "The Weisman families were one of the early ones. So a little bit of this is our family's history, but there's so much more. It's not just our family it's a lot of families."
"Because she was friends with a lot of the people who had scrapbooks that we've quoted in our book, she was really good at making sure that there were things in our exhibits that really represented our history," said Cook.
The first documented information included in the booklet is a copy of the Jewish congregation's meeting minutes, dating back to 1868.
"That was when they formed an organization that probably started the Jewish temple services," Kariel said.
Kariel said stories of families, the temple's history and the establishment of the Marshall Hebrew Cemetery are all combined in the book. Working on the project was not only fun, Kariel said, but a great learning experience that pleasantly enlightened her on a bit of history that she didn't even know.
"What amazed me more than anything is, Galveston is known for being the oldest congregation (in Texas), but (we found both were existing in 1868), that makes me know Marshall was right there with them," Kariel said.
"I discovered how very old this congregation was and how it was recognized in its own way for being one of the older congregations, but then it could very easily be overlooked by people," she said of how history can be lost if it's not properly recorded.
"Unless someone is saving it and promoting it even sometimes, it just disappears," she said of history.
She didn't want to see that happen with Marshall's Jewish history.
"All of a sudden I realized that the finger was pointing at me and that nobody else was going to do it, so I started being the repository of trying to get things to the museum," Kariel said.
The late Inez Hughes was the first person to accept the artifacts at the museum before it relocated to its new site at the renovated county courthouse.
"I can't forget her because some of the things that she did and that she collected are the basis for what we've done here," said Kariel. "We're showing a candelabrum in our exhibit and had it not been for Mrs. Hughes we wouldn't even have that. She was never paid and she bought that with her own money because someone had taken it from the temple and sold it to an antique shop.
"She had her ways of getting things," Kariel fondly remembered.
"She set the foundation for what we see today by accepting the artifacts and accepting the collection from the Jewish temple and the Jewish community into our museum, and that was the foundation for what we have today and what we're going to dedicate on April 22," added Cook.
LAYING THE GROUNDWORK
A 1982 article Kariel had written on Marshall's Jewish history, for the Western States Jewish Historical Quarterly, set the premise for the booklet. Cook said the springboard for the museum exhibit was the actual Holy Ark that was kept from the Temple Moses Montefiore and used by the museum as a showcase in the elevator lobby of the historic county courthouse. Visitors to the courthouse, where the museum is now housed, would always inquire about the genesis of the ark.
"They were hungry for a story about that Holy Ark that we had in our elevator lobby," Cook said, noting how gorgeous it is.
"So I came to Audrey and I said: 'Would you help me with an exhibit, so that we can properly tell the story about this ark and what it's all about?' And, of course, who she is, she said yes because she's always wanting to help her community and she's a wonderful historian and always says yes."
From there, the two pulled together all the artifacts and information amassed by Kariel and from the museum's archives.
"We just pulled that all together and realized we probably had a greater story to tell of all cultures that settled our community… that we could do both things," said Cook.
Thus, the museum, with Kariel's help, began fundraising in 2015, collecting a total of $15,700. Most donors were descendants of Marshall's Jewish community. Other gifts came in the form of a $4,000 grant from the Texas Jewish Historical Society and a $1,500 grant from the Southern Jewish Historical Society.
"They were familiar with her (Kariel) and the history of our Jewish community here," Cook said.
Cook said the money was used to also publish the booklet, titled "Audrey Daniels Kariel's The Jewish Story and Memories of Marshall, Texas." The booklet served as an avenue to share more stories about the culture.
"We wanted to include other stories about Marshall's Jewish community and decided to think of the booklet as a 'scrapbook' recording the lives of some of Marshall's Jewish families," she said, noting it includes both long and short stories. "Just as a family might record their memories by lovingly pasting newspaper clippings, photographs, and mementos on blank pages, so we have done remembering Marshall's Jewish families in this scrapbook.
Cook said running in a ribbon along the top of the scrapbook pages are the surnames of Jewish families, who lived in Marshall.
"The second part of the scrapbook features the family of Jewish immigrant Mary Doppelmayer, whose coming to the United States in 1841 dramatically impacted Marshall," she said, noting Doppelmayer was the mother of Marshall philanthropist and retail store owner Joe Weisman.
Using winnings from a lottery ticket, 28-year-old Doppelmayer came to the United States from Germany in 1841.
"She came as a single woman by herself, as far as we know," said Cook. "She moved to Syracuse, New York. Her two brothers also later followed her to the United States, and found their way to Marshall. From there, Mary married a Weisman and had children, and then those Weisman children came here, and others from Syracuse, New York came.
"That's just an example of the stories that are in here that can be studied on, and expanded on, so if somebody chooses to research there's all kinds of beginnings of information," Cook said.
The authors said they had a blast working on the project.
"We like it," said 85-year-old Kariel, who made history herself as Marshall's first and only woman mayor. "We had a good time with it."
In addition to the booklet, the museum will also have 100 copies of the 1993 book published by the Harrison County Historical Commission titled "Cultural Crossroads." The book highlights 23 ethnic groups that settled in Harrison County.
"It's a wonderful little book," said Kariel, who was chairman of the commission, at the time the book was published. "It's a book that I have referred about as much as any little book that I have in my Marshall collection."
Cook said they relied on the book for research conducted for part of the Global Connections exhibit.
For the accompanying booklet, Kariel reached out to many of the Jewish families, who sent family photos for the booklet and shared their stories. Through the pages, readers will learn of the contributions the Jewish community made and the roles they played in the civic, political, social, and educational life of Marshall. The Gold family, for example, was the main donor for Marshall Public Library. The library's Gold Room is named in the family's honor.
In addition to families' stories, the booklet also includes old articles from the daily newspaper.
"I would look back at old newspapers just to show how the Jewish community really helped grow Marshall, just develop Marshall and was just an integral part of what we are today," said Cook.
And while it sheds light to the many stories of the Jewish community, Kariel said there's certainly more to be told.
"We have just touched the tip of the iceberg," she said.
Proceeds from the book sales at the event will go to support the museum. Cook said they're proud of that fact and also proud to be able to celebrate the opening of the exhibit, which will tell the story of the temple and how it was built with the support of Marshall's community.
"We're having our exhibit opening after the culmination of a two-year project where we worked on the exhibit, the content for the exhibit and then this book, so we're excited that we get to share it with the citizens of Marshall and with all of our guests that are coming in for this event," said Cook. "It's just a good feeling and the best feeling would be when we are there that day and people walk up to us and say I had no idea; or that you told me a story about my family; or they read the book and say this is just so interesting, thank you for doing this and that this informed us."