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Beth Yam History

A History of Congregation Beth Yam
4501 Meeting Street
Hilton Head, SC 29926

In the beginning the Jews of Hilton Head were few and scattered and were without form. Jews had come to visit, but developers did not encourage settlement. Nevertheless, the first Jewish wedding took place on August 24, 1974. The marriage of Cosimo and Deborah Urato was officiated by retired army chaplain, Rabbi Norman Goldberg, and the largest gathering of Jews to date was recorded at the Hilton Head Inn. By the end of the 1970s Jewish settlers did not know whether there were any others here. Some were reluctant to be publicly recognized as Jews and, although they did not deny their faith, neither did they display a mezuzah or other symbol of Jewishness. Nonetheless, thirty people gathered for a Passover dinner in 1979, and the seeds of a Jewish association were sowed. Knowing that there were Jews living in Sea Pines and concerned that there was no synagogue on Hilton Head, the pastor of Christ Lutheran Church voiced this concern to his neighbors and friends, Sue and Hank Noble. In 1980 a notice was placed in the Island Packet inviting all Jews in the area to share a Rosh Hashanah dinner at Christ Lutheran Church. Although the meeting was to be held in Fellowship Hall, Reverend Boyd Cook discovered that the hall had also been promised to the Boy Scouts for their meeting. Honoring his commitment to the Nobles, Reverend Cook put the Boy Scouts in the sanctuary. The morning following the dinner, Hank Noble received a phone call telling him that there had been a problem in Fellowship Hall after the folks had left.

“What was the problem?” Hank asked, and he wondered if something was left dirty or damaged. “We think that one of Moses’ staffs was left behind,” the reverend said.
“Huh?” or something to that effect was Hank’s response.
“Yes. The Boy Scouts discovered a snake in the room after everyone else had left.”

At the dinner meeting it was decided that the time was right to establish a Jewish community group on Hilton Head. A “pot-luck” Seder was held in April, 1981 in Sea Pines Plantation. It appears that ninety-seven people attended this event. Overwhelmed by the response, Stuart and Linda Silver and Hank and Sue Noble assumed leadership roles and arranged a meeting to form a Jewish community group. This meeting, at the home of Hank and Sue Noble, was held on May 1, 1981. Twenty-six people attended, Shabbat candles were lit and a Kiddush was recited. A Steering Committee and sub committees were formed and an organizational dinner meeting was planned on May 29, 1981.

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