UTAH (ABC4) — Today is the first day of Hanukkah. To kick off the eight days of celebrations, ABC4 looked at some of Utah’s Jewish history. The Congregation Brith Sholem in Ogden is the oldest, continuously active synagogue in the state, and its history is full of perseverance, strength and pride.  

“There’s a thing in Judaism called ‘Tikkun Olam’ which is ‘to repair the world,’ and it’s to do good while you’re here,” said Sue Tice, the board of directors for the synagogue.

“The message of Hanukkah is one of hope,” she said. “No matter how small a community you are, you can rise up over evil and overcome it.”  

That Hanukkah message is evident in the history of the synagogue.   

The building was erected in 1921. However, the history of Congregation Brith Sholem goes back even further. Thirty years prior to the synagogue being built, the first Jewish residents used to hold services at a storefront on historic 25th Street.   

The synagogue stood for decades. However, in 1989, vandals struck.

“Inside was pretty trashed, and we rebuilt with the help of the community and various other churches and religious organizations and donations,” Tice said.

While the vandals were inside destroying all they could, Tice said, they set different items on fire. With the help of the community, the synagogue was rededicated in 1990.  

Tragedy nearly struck again in 2021 when a massive fire destroyed half a dozen homes in the neighborhood. As firefighters tried to get the blaze under control, it had crept within a matter of yards from the synagogue.  

“It would be nice if people would take the opportunity to learn about Jewish people and people of all other races and religions so that hate can be dissipated,” she said.  

Tice explained that Jewish people across the country are worried about the recent rise in antisemitism. That is no different in Utah.

The synagogue is increasing security measures, including stationing a police officer outside during services, adding security fencing, updating security systems and doors, and training members.  

“When you live in a community that has less than a handful of Jewish organizations along the Wasatch Front, it’s very easy to find something if you’re looking to cause distress,” Tice said.

Hanukkah’s message helps instill hope in believers. The theme of “hope” is shared by many other faiths during the holiday season. As Utahns celebrate this winter, Tice hopes people will reach out and get to know more about those who come from different backgrounds.

“We can bring light to the world if you stand up for what’s right,” she said.