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‘This could only happen in Utah’ — Jewish congregation celebrates 50 years of an unlikely union

05/11/2023 06:00:02 AM


Peggy Fletcher Stack, Salt Lake Tribune


In 1973, Salt Lake City’s two small Jewish congregations — one Conservative, the other Reform — did something bold and, frankly, almost unthinkable in their respective traditions.

They merged to create Congregation Kol Ami, which means “all my people.”

Though not without bumps, the new community has continued to thrive for decades.

This week, hundreds of Kol Ami members, their neighbors and friends, gathered at This Is the Place Heritage Park to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the state’s largest synagogue.

“This could only happen in Utah, where we all seem to love each other,” Rabbi Samuel Spector said in his opening remarks. “We celebrate that coming together.”

Apostle Gerrit W. Gong of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints echoed that sentiment at the party.

“As we celebrate Congregation Kol Ami’s 50th anniversary, we celebrate many more years of rich association in Utah as neighbors and friends, brothers and sisters,” Gong told the assembled guests. “The friendship and community of our peoples span back to Brigham Young and continue forward to today.”

Latter-day Saint leaders “acknowledge the mutual respect our communities enjoy,” Gong said. “Our heartfelt desire is that this relationship will continue to grow in a spirit of trust and goodwill.”

Cantor Sharon Brown-Levy, who arrived in the Beehive State from Toronto two years ago, was effusive.

“We adore it here,” she said in an interview. “We are going to grow the community together.”

It was exciting to share this moment with the larger community, said Faye Lincoln, who has been on Kol Ami’s board for two years, “and to watch the congregation expand as so many new people are moving into the state.”

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Mon, May 29 2023 9 Sivan 5783