Laurie Franklin

Laurie Franklin

In Missoula, we’ve been making Jewish community since the first Jewish arrivals settled here 100 years ago. Now, the Jewish community of Missoula is entering a new phase: Congregation Har Shalom is installing our very first residential rabbi during a weekend festival, Shalom Missoula, Oct. 18, 19, and 20. We invite our members, fellow travelers, and community friends to join us in celebration.

It’s miracle enough that Har Shalom birthed a rabbi from its own ranks, but we are taking the dream one step further: we hope to establish a center of Jewish learning and spiritual life in Missoula, open to all who are interested, where participants might pursue a life path, undertake an academic study, experience Jewish culture, and engage for the sheer joy of it. The consensus to create this center grew out of a community meeting at Har Shalom last year. We intend to use funds raised at this festival to present scholars, performing and visual artists, authors, and great Jewish teachers in an ongoing program of courses, workshops, exhibits, lectures and performances.

We’ve already begun: One outgrowth of Shalom Missoula is “Leiser’s Footsteps”, an exhibit of the newly researched history of Missoula’s original Jewish citizens and their contribution to Missoula’s growth. Guided tours of the exhibit will take place on Sunday, Oct. 20 as part of the Shalom Missoula festival.

Other highlights of the weekend are Friday night worship led by a new musical ensemble, Selah, with original, participatory music based on the psalms with which we welcome Shabbat, and inspired by the work of Nava Tehila in Jerusalem. A full-course sit-down Shabbat dinner follows the service, with traditional singing and gems of Torah from the Shabbat table. Saturday morning will bring a more extended Torah study and a Saturday morning service in which Laurie Franklin (me) will be installed as Har Shalom’s rabbi, with leadership by Montana Jewish clergy, visiting cantors and rabbis, and Missoula interfaith friends.

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Jazz fans, foodies, and lovers of a good party will enjoy “Jazz at the Mountain” on Saturday evening, a gala musical fundraiser, whose proceeds will go towards establishing the new center. Jazz at the Mountain features David Morgenroth, nationally and internationally renowned jazz pianist, and The Owen Ross Big Band, an ensemble of local luminaries and visiting guest artists. Emcee Mayor John Engen will preside over the festivities, and local cooks and chefs will provide gourmet grazing, including Jewish ethnic delicacies.

Sunday will feature an orientation lecture and guided tours of Leiser’s Footsteps, as well as an afternoon mini-festival of Jewish music, dance and food.

We have a “no-pay-to-pray policy”, so everyone is welcome at the Friday and Saturday services, whether registered for Shalom Missoula or not! Please join us in person and in spirit for the next phase of Har Shalom’s life, as we affirm our Jewish identity, share our cultural and religious riches, and look to the future with great hope. We are grateful to our dear friends in Missoula, who have repeatedly welcomed us and offered support in times of difficulty. Now, it’s time to celebrate together!

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Rabbi Laurie Franklin can be reached at rabbilaurie@har-shalom.org.

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