My family immigrated to the US from a mixture of Eastern European countries at the turn of the 20th century fleeing religious persecution. Coming from that part of the world, they were Ashkenazi Jews. They came to the United States through Ellis Island. It is a stone's throw from the Statue of Liberty. In my case, my grandparents came here as children. They lived on the lower east side of New York City and ended up marrying someone from their neighborhood and raising their families in Brooklyn. That was the place to be. My parents met and married and "moved on up" to Long Island. I grew up in a town called North Woodmere and attended a high school that was predominantly Jewish. Most of our grandparents were from Brooklyn via Ellis Island. To me, this was the Jewish experience.
Imagine my surprise when I went for a tour of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim during our trip to Charleston. This synagogue was founded in 1749.The Jews that immigrated to Charleston, fleeing the Spanish Inquisition, came from London, the West Indies, Germany and the Netherlands. They were Sephardic Jews with slightly different traditions than what I grew up with. The most surprising thing was that Charleston was the birthplace of Reform Judaism in the United States in 1824 and that they were an integral part of the history of Charleston. Almost 2 dozen congregants served in the War of Independence.
And there were so many other nice details.
Many synagogues have a gift shop where many Jewish items are sold. It serves 2 purposes. One is it offers us the opportunity to purchase Judaica. It also is a means to raise some funds. I found some of the most beautiful ritual art in KKBE's gift shop. My favorite was this marriage license, called a ketubah:
"I have found the one in whom my soul delights". Isn't that what marriage should be about?