Explore Jewish Life in Hickory North Carolina
Hickory, a town of 40,000 situated in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, is known internationally for its furniture industry. Jews have lived in the community since the civil war era, but community origins trace to the arrival of an East European immigrant, Lewis Zerden who opened a downtown store in 1908. Once Jewish merchants dominated the community, but today with a diversified economy, including high tech, professionals have been drawn to the area. Unlike many small towns, the local Jewish community is flourishing even as the furniture industry has waned and Jewish-owned downtown stores have mostly closed. The Hickory Jewish Center, renamed Temple Beth Shalom, dedicated a new building in 1989.
Supported by a resident student rabbi, Temple Beth Shalom now counts over 60 members who live in a forty-mile area. It identifies as an independent Reform Congregation.
The Institute of Southern Jewish Life notes that as early as the 1930s local Jews organized a Sunday School, but not until 1959 did they build a synagogue served by a circuit-riding rabbi in a bus.