Darlington Hebrew Association

Darlington, SC 29532

Year Built:


Years Active:

Architectural Overview

Congregation History

Darlington Early History
Darlington as a city was founded in 1835 after being chartered by the state General Assembly. Immigrants settled in the area much earlier–as early as the1730s.1 Despite its small size, Darlington boasted a strong agricultural market. Cotton and tobacco were its most significant crops.2

German Jewish Immigration and Early Years
The first documented Jews in Darlington were Joseph and Charles Frank, a set of German Jewish brothers who are reported to have arrived in 1845 and established a store They were soon joined by their cousins Marx and Issac Iseman.3 The four were quite financially successful and were able to purchase several acres in the middle of the small town. They were soon joined by August Nachman, brothers Henry and Hyam Hymes, and Samuel Marco, all of whom arrived in the 1850s with the intention of opening stores. One new immigrant, Michael Welsh, arrived in town in the midst of the Civil War. Not letting that stop him, he joined the police force and later became a probate judge.4

Unlike Welsh, many of the early Jewish settlers did not stay in Darlington due to the Civil War. Those that did stay, however, were more seen as more entrenched in the community than those who previously resided in the area.5 By 1878, an estimated 56 Jews lived in Darlington and most were well established in the larger community and were active in civic affairs, a common pattern we see throughout the American South. Jews were involved in municipal politics, the local fire company, and banking as well as social organizations like the Masonic Lodge.6

Formal Organization of Jewish Life
Darlington’s Jews made their first attempt at organizing a congregation in the late 1870s. Led by Jacob Lopes Cardoza, a Sephardic Jewish immigrant– a rabbi-turned-doctor–he was somewhat successful in pushing for an official congregation. The initiative fell apart when he moved from the area in 1883.7

Twelve years later, Rabbi Joseph Chumaceiro of Augusta, Georgia made a second attempt at organizing a formal congregation. . The congregation was active for three years before he left in 1898. Despite this, there was enough interest within the Jewish community to establish a Jewish burial ground. In 1896, the Darlington Hebrew Cemetery Association purchased land for the Darlington Jewish Cemetery. Among those responsible for this project were C. Alexander, H. Hennig, A. Hyman, I. Lewenthal, S. Lewenthal, Mr. and Mrs. M. Manne, E. Rotholz, N. Schultz, S. Tombacher, A. Weinberg, W. Witcover, and S. Wolfram.8

A third attempt in 1905 to establish a congregation in town was successful. Designated the Darlington Hebrew Association, by 1907, the group boasted 49 members. In lieu of hiring their own rabbi, Sumter’s Rabbi Jacob Klein traveled to Darlington once a month to lead services according to the customs of the Reform movement. In addition to services, roughly 20 children attended the weekly Sunday school.9 Beginning in 1919, K.K. Beth Elohim’s Rabbi Jacob Raisin visited the congregation one Sunday a month. It is not known if the two rabbis alternated providing services.

The Great Depression and Communal Decline
Like many other congregations, Darlington had a Ladies Aid Society that later became known as the Darlington Temple Sisterhood. Founded in 1925, these women were responsible for being the “bulwark of the community.”10 Regularly consisting of fewer than twelve members, they worked to keep the congregation active and were also the unofficial caretakers of the cemetery until the 1990s. In 1930, an announcement in the Jewish Daily Bulletin, of the national Jewish Telegraphic Agency, noted that the Darlington Sisterhood had been “awarded the Lumiansky memorial cup for the greatest number of honor points in the annual state contest.”11

In 1927, the Jewish community reached an all-time high of 85 Jews and they hoped to build a synagogue. However, they lacked a suitable lot and sufficient funds. That was, however, until the Sisterhood received a sum of money from Minnie Barnett’s estate.12 Those funds were initially designated for a synagogue, but a decline in population size prevented this from happening.

Similar to other Jewish communities throughout the country, the Great Depression placed the congregation in severe financial straits. As the congregation cut back on dues and donations, they could barely afford to pay for Rabbi Raisin’s monthly visit.13 By 1937, the Jewish population had declined to 35. Talks of a synagogue would not resume until the 1950s. In the meantime, services were held in the hall of the Masonic Lodge.

Following Rabbi Raisin’s death in 1946, organized Jewish practice all but ceased in Darlington. This included the Sunday school as well. Two years later, the Sisterhood brought forward the question of whether or not a congregation “might be formed.” The Darlington Hebrew Congregation was officially formed in June 1953 , replacing the former Darlington Hebrew Association. In 1954, Rabbi J. Aaron Levy of Sumter was hired to lead monthly services. In the end, the community decided to forgo building a synagogue as there were not enough members to justify the cost.14

In 1956, the Sisterhood “became the successor trustee of the Darlington Hebrew Cemetery Association … via a court order that gave the group full legal rights to manage the burial ground.” As a result, the funds that had once been designated for the construction of a synagogue were then put into a perpetual care trust for the cemetery.

By the mid-1960s, the congregation numbered thirteen members. Because of the small size, members debated whether to rehire Rabbi Levy to lead services. They decided to reduce services “from once a month to two to four times a year.” This agreement ended when Levy retired in 1970.15

Despite the community’s small and dwindling population, those who remained in Darlington served important communal roles as pharmacists, lawyers, judges, and doctors. Among civic associations, Darlington’s Jewry was involved in the Kiwanis Club, Lions Club, Chamber of Commerce, and even the local Country Club.16

Darlington Jewry Today
The small size of the congregation and the death of Rabbi Levy led the Darlington Hebrew Congregation to formally disband in the 1990s.17 The congregation and Sisterhood continue to “exist in the form of a trust fund, managed by two descendents of the Jewish community.”18


1. “ISJL – South Carolina Darlington Encyclopedia,” Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, accessed July 7, 2023, https://www.isjl.org/south-carolina-darlington-encyclopedia.html.
2. Stacy, “History of Darlington,” The City of Darlington, South Carolina (blog), February 19, 2020, https://www.cityofdarlington.com/history-of-darlington/.
3. “ISJL – South Carolina Darlington Encyclopedia.”
4. “ISJL – South Carolina Darlington Encyclopedia.”
5. “ISJL – South Carolina Darlington Encyclopedia.”
6. “ISJL – South Carolina Darlington Encyclopedia.”
7. “ISJL – South Carolina Darlington Encyclopedia.”
8. “ISJL – South Carolina Darlington Encyclopedia.”
9. “ISJL – South Carolina Darlington Encyclopedia.”
10. “ISJL – South Carolina Darlington Encyclopedia.”
11. Jewish Telegraphic Agency, “South Carolina Temple Sisterhoods Reelect Officers,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency (blog), March 20, 2015, https://www.jta.org/archive/south-carolina-temple-sisterhoods-reelect-officers; “JTA’s History,” Jewish Telegraphic Agency (blog), accessed July 12, 2023, https://www.jta.org/about-us/jta-history.
12. “ISJL – South Carolina Darlington Encyclopedia.”
13. “ISJL – South Carolina Darlington Encyclopedia.”
14. “ISJL – South Carolina Darlington Encyclopedia.”
15. “ISJL – South Carolina Darlington Encyclopedia.”
16. “ISJL – South Carolina Darlington Encyclopedia.”
17. “ISJL – South Carolina Florence Encyclopedia – Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life,” accessed July 7, 2023, https://www.isjl.org/south-carolina-florence-encyclopedia.html.
18. “ISJL – South Carolina Darlington Encyclopedia.”

Works Cited
Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life. “ISJL – South Carolina Darlington Encyclopedia.” Accessed July 7, 2023. https://www.isjl.org/south-carolina-darlington-encyclopedia.html.

“ISJL – South Carolina Florence Encyclopedia – Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life.” Accessed July 7, 2023. https://www.isjl.org/south-carolina-florence-encyclopedia.html.

Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “JTA’s History.” Accessed July 12, 2023. https://www.jta.org/about-us/jta-history.

Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “South Carolina Temple Sisterhoods Reelect Officers.” Jewish Telegraphic Agency (blog), March 20, 2015. https://www.jta.org/archive/south-carolina-temple-sisterhoods-reelect-officers.

stacy. “History of Darlington.” The City of Darlington, South Carolina (blog), February 19, 2020. https://www.cityofdarlington.com/history-of-darlington/.

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