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The Congregation

In 1951, Temple Israel dedicated its first synagogue on Baumgarten Street in Schulenburg, using the same Torah that had belonged to Beth Asher in Hallettsville. Clergy from three different Houston congregations participated in the event. Rabbi Kahn of Temple Emanu-El led the dedication service and gave the keynote address, Cantor George Wagner of Beth Yeshurun sang, and Rabbi Robert Schur of Beth Israel gave the closing prayer. Oscar Brown, the mayor of Schulenburg, took part in the ceremony, as did the pastor of the First Baptist Church.

The congregation was now Reform, using an organ during services and bringing down student rabbis from Hebrew Union College for the High Holidays. Rabbi Kahn of Houston would come in to lead confirmation services and the occasional bar mitzvah. By 1962, Temple Israel had joined the Reform Union of American Hebrew Congregations. The congregation was small, numbering only 37 members in 1962. Services were only held one Friday night a month and on the High Holidays. Eli Rubin served as lay leader for the monthly services. In 1960, there were only eight children in the religious school.


As in the early years, most members of Temple Israel remained in the retail business through the mid-20th century. The Klein family made their mark throughout the Tri-County area. Louis Klein moved to La Grange in 1923 from Austin, opening a dry goods store. His son Larry later took over the business, running it for several decades. Four of his other sons opened stores in other small towns in the area. Myke Klein had a store in Schulenburg, Charles Klein opened one in Columbus, Sid Klein owned a store in Smithville, while Moe Klein had one in Flatonia. The Klein family was very active in the larger community. Louis Klein served on the La Grange city council while his son Charles was a founder and president of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce and was named the town’s “Citizen of the Year” in 1989. Polish-born Ike Lippman opened a dry goods store in Schulenburg in 1912. His son Leslie soon joined the business, which was called Ike Lippman & Sons Dry Goods. After Ike’s death, Leslie ran the store until he closed it and retired in 1988. Leslie also owned a farm, raising cotton and cattle for many years. George Lauterstein built La Grange’s finest department store. He also owned a lower-end retail outlet called the Bargain Center. Lauterstein became a leader of the La Grange business community, serving as a director of the First National Bank of La Grange for 54 years. Lauterstein’s Department Store was bought out by the Gindler family in 1968.

Although most Jews in the area remained in business, a few had entered the professions. Norman Rubin was an optometrist, while the Schwartz family has had three generations of lawyers in Hallettsville. Marcus Schwartz opened a law practice in Hallettsville in 1895; he also served on the town's first school board and helped found a local bank. His son, Armond Schwartz, served as Lavaca County Attorney for many years, and spent almost 50 years as the City Attorney for Hallettsville. Armond's son, Marcus Schwartz, continues to practice law in Hallettsville, leading the firm that had been founded by his grandfather in 1895.


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