State’s oldest Jewish temple closes doors after 127 years
October 9, 2016
TRINIDAD — For 127 years, the ornate Jewish temple perched on a hill overlooking the center of this town along the New Mexico border served as both a cultural draw and a reminder of the Southwest's pioneer days.
The red brick and stone building, with its onion-twist dome and towering stained-glass windows, was a vibrant bastion for Jews looking to make their fortune along the Santa Fe Trail.
But now, Colorado's longest continually operating synagogue in its original location — and among the oldest west of the Mississippi River — is closed. Temple Aaron has fallen victim to decades of economic change in Trinidad that led to a dwindling congregation, which no longer has the resources to sustain itself.
There were no Rosh Hashana services at the temple last weekend to celebrate the Jewish new year as there had been for the past century and beyond. Instead, those visiting the structure were greeted by a for sale sign. Even the synagogue's sacred Torah scrolls are in the process of being sold.
"It's terribly painful for me," said Ron Rubin, whose family has managed the building and congregation for the past 30-odd years. "It's just a horrible, horrible thing."
The Rubins say there simply isn't enough money left to pay the roughly $50,000 needed annually to sustain the historic Victorian-Moorish building and its membership. Mounting insurance costs and pricey repairs have forced them to shutter the synagogue and disband the congregation, whose members have included families from Denver, Albuquerque and Colorado Springs.
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What makes Temple Aaron so special also makes it so expensive. For each perfectly stained window sending colorful light dancing off the hardwood floors, there is a section of roofing that needs to be replaced, a boiler that no longer works and chipping white paint that exposes the walls to the elements.
For decades, the reformed temple's membership has been limited to a few dozen people — at most — including a handful from Trinidad itself. Members say the end of Temple Aaron's existence effectively closes the doors on the history of Jews in the Southwest and their integral role in the story of the Santa Fe Trail.
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