Temple Sinai front

Temple Sinai FAQs

Temple Sinai, a Reform Jewish Congregation located on Church Street, has entered into a new partnership with the Sumter County Museum. Over the years, dwindling numbers in the temple’s congregation have led its members to consider long-term planning for the building itself, if the day comes when the congregation is no longer viable.

In this new partnership, the congregation will still use the temple sanctuary to conduct Friday night and holiday services, but the museum will use the adjoining social hall to create a permanent exhibit about Jewish history in South Carolina and Sumter. The museum will also include a large section devoted to the Holocaust and Sumter’s ties to the Holocaust.


1) When will the temple exhibit open?
A. The Temple Sinai Jewish History Center, Sumter County Museum, will open to the public June 2, 2018. Details of opening weekend events will be posted soon – stay tuned!

stained glass windows inside Temple Sinai2) What is going on with the temple windows on the outside?
A. Many years ago, the temple windows were covered with a type of thick Plexiglas to protect them against damage. While the windows can still be viewed inside in full splendor, especially when the sun is out, over time, the outer coverings became opaque, so that the windows were not visible from the exterior. As part of the new partnership with the museum, new window coverings are being installed. These new coverings are made of tempered glass and will still protect the windows, but the glass will remain clear, so that the windows may be seen from the outside.

3) When was Temple Sinai established?
A. The first Jewish citizens of Sumter arrived from Charleston around 1815.Two early organizations preceded the formation of a Jewish congregation in Sumter. The Hebrew Cemetery Society was formed and land purchased for a cemetery in 1874. The Sumter Hebrew Benevolent Ner-tamid imageSociety was organized by 1881. Shortly thereafter, the two groups merged and in 1885, the group formally became known as The Sumter Society of Israelites, the official name of present-day Congregation Sinai. Although regular Sabbath worship and Sunday school classes were held in the late 1800s, the first official synagogue, a wooden structure, was not built until the first decade of the 1900s. It unfortunately burned and was replaced with the present brick building in 1913. The temple’s construction is unusual, with its Moorish design and large, uniquely-crafted stained glass windows. The synagogue was established as and has always been a Reform Jewish congregation.

4) Why are the windows so unusual?
menorah imageA. Unfortunately, records have been lost and it is not known who designed and constructed the windows. The windows were installed when the synagogue was built and are made of a very richly colored type of stained glass known as drapery glass – wherein the glass is folded during the manufacturing process, producing a result that looks like folded material. The reds of the glass contain elements of gold and the blues contain elements of cobalt, supplying the extra-rich coloring.

5) Does the temple still have an active congregation?
A. Although the numbers have dwindled over the years as younger generations have moved away, there is still an active congregation at Temple Sinai.

6) Can someone who is not Jewish attend a Sabbath service if they are interested?
A. Yes, absolutely. Like most houses of worship, the temple is open to anyone who would like to visit. Services are held beginning at 7:00 pm, every other Friday. If you are interested in attending a service or want further information, please contact the temple office at 803-773-2122 or Elizabeth Moses at the Sumter County Museum, 803-775-0908.

7) Will there be a charge to see the temple museum exhibit?
A. Most likely there will be a small admission fee. It may be included in the fee to see the Sumter County Museum or it may be separate. It hasn’t been determined.

8) If my family was/is a member of Temple Sinai and we have objects we’d like to donate to the exhibit, can we do that? How?
Brestplate imageA. Yes, the Sumter County Museum will be happy to accept items for donation. We need your help to tell the stories of Jewish arrival to South Carolina, Jewish settlement and life in Sumter, and Sumter connections to the Holocaust. We are specifically looking for family photos and heirlooms related to arrival and life in Sumter; photos or objects related to Temple Sinai activities over the years; photos and objects from Jewish businesses (anything with logos, etc.); and photos and objects highlighting governmental, military, and community service.

We need to know about the artifacts as soon as possible so that the designers can make the display cases. Even if we cannot fit everything into the exhibit at first, we plan to update the exhibit periodically to highlight new artifacts and family stories. Items you agree to donate that end up not being used initially will be stored with appropriate archival material and kept in climate controlled storage at the Sumter County Museum. Please contact Elizabeth Moses at 803-775-0908 or emoses@sumtercountymuseum.org

9) I’d like to donate towards this exhibit that will explore the Jewish history of Sumter County, interpret Temple Sinai and ensure that the story of the Holocaust is never forgotten. How do I do that?
image of menora with window in backgroundA. We are happy to accept donations. A project like this is a big financial undertaking and funds are still needed. You can donate either to the Sumter County Museum, 122 N. Washington St., P.O. Box 1456, Sumter, SC, 29151 (make checks payable to the Sumter County Museum and note that the donation is for the temple museum exhibit); or online through our website: www.sumtercountymuseum.org. You can also donate to the temple itself: Temple Sinai, P.O. Box 1763, Sumter, SC, 29151. (make checks payable to Temple Sinai and please note that the donation is for the temple museum exhibit)

10) Is it possible to take a tour of Temple Sinai now?
A. Renovations are under way and the museum exhibit will not be open until 2018. You may attend Shabbat services as mentioned above. If you have a class or group that is particularly interested in viewing the temple windows or the interior of the sanctuary, periodic tours can be arranged. Please contact Elizabeth Moses at 803-775-0908 to reserve a time, or email her at emoses@sumtercountymuseum.org
Star of David mesh image

If you have additional questions you’d like answered, please let us know: emoses@sumtercountymuseum.org

Photography by Elizabeth Moses