Jews in West Virginia/Clarksburg

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Tree of Life Synagogue on 504 West Pike Street, which has been torn down. The congregation relocated to Morgantown.

Jews have resided, worked, raised families, and participated in local, civic, and social life while also forming religious communities that will allow for them to practice their cultural traditions in the mountain state. Due to bad economic conditions and repression in Germany between 1840-1880, many Jew migrated to the United States in search of a better life. Many of them moved to small cities and towns where they can continue on with their lives. The first Jewish community in West Virginia was formed in Wheeling in the 1840s and in the 1850s a group will Charleston will emerge. In the 1880s, most Jews that migrated to West Virginia will settle in cities such as; Charleston, Huntington, and Parkersburg.

A new migration of Eastern European Jews, mostly from Russia, Poland, and Austria-Hungry came to the United States due to social and economic upheaval. A majority of these Jews moved to the larger cities, until growth in the West Virginia coal industry drew some into the mountain state. Many of these Jews will establish themselves in retail and will start off their careers as peddlers. As a result of the economic opportunity, Charleston saw a growth in their Jewish populations along with new cities. Very small groups of Jews established themselves in Beckley, Logan, Welch, Weirton, and Williamson. In order to further their faith, they established their own religious organizations, which was centered around the Synagogue where they attended service, observe holidays, and taught their children the importance of their faith. The Jewish population in West Virginia will remain a small minority. Even after the Holocaust, in the 1950s, only about 7,000 Jews resided in West Virginia. Economic issues in the state led to people leaving the state, which included a large chunk of the Jewish population.

Today, there are about 2,500 Jews in the state and a majority of them continue to live in Charleston, Huntington, and Wheeling. There is a very small Jewish community that remains in the Clarksburg area. Clarksburg experienced a small community of mainly German and some Russian Jews. In 1914, a group of German Jews established a synagogue in Clarksburg, Temple Emanuel and was affiliated with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations. Even though the temple was established, it was never big enough to support a full-time rabbi but brought in student rabbis for the high holidays. In 1917, a community of Orthodox Jews established a synagogue and in 1922 acquired a building on 504 West Pike called the Tree of Life Congregation. Today, there are about 30 Jewish families that reside in Clarksburg and at least ten a week gather as a community for their services.

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