Temple Kol Ami (Fort Mill, South Carolina)

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Temple Kol Ami
Kol ami entrance.JPG
Temple Kol Ami meets at the Unity Presbyterian Church Historic Sanctuary
AffiliationReform Judaism
Location1691 SC-160, Fort Mill, SC
Geographic coordinates35°00′29″N 80°56′18″W / 35.0081°N 80.9384°W / 35.0081; -80.9384Coordinates: 35°00′29″N 80°56′18″W / 35.0081°N 80.9384°W / 35.0081; -80.9384
Temple Kol Ami Website

Temple Kol Ami is a Reform Jewish synagogue located in Fort Mill, South Carolina.[1][2] Founded in 2010, it is one of two Jewish congregations in York County, South Carolina, and one of eleven synagogues in the Charlotte metropolitan area.


The history of Jews in York County dates back to as early as the 1860s, when Arnold Friedheim, a German Jewish immigrant settled in Rock Hill, SC. After the Civil War, he was joined by his brothers Julius and August. Together they opened A. Friedheim and Brothers, which would eventually become Rock Hill's largest department store. Jewish families, however, did not immigrate in significant numbers until the early 1900s, mostly Eastern European Jews from Poland and Russia who were merchants.

The first Jewish congregation created in York County was Beth Shalom Congregation, begun in 1922 by eight Jewish families in Rock Hill. Meeting in homes and eventually a storefront, by 1933 the congregation constructed its first building on Main Street in Rock Hill. The congregation never had a full-time rabbi, but itinerant rabbis and cantors who would lead High Holy Days services. Cantor George Ackerman served the congregation for many years until it closed in 1953 due to lack of membership. Its Torah scrolls and Judaica were subsequently donated to Beth Israel synagogue in Whiteville, NC.

For the next fifty years, no formal Jewish congregation existed in York County. The few Jewish families that resided in the area attended services either in nearby Charlotte or Gastonia, both in North Carolina. However, as Charlotte became a financial center with Bank of America establishing its national headquarters in the city, and with the influx of retired northeastern Jews, the Jewish population of Charlotte and the surrounding areas (including York County) began to prosper and grow.

In the spring of 2010, two men, rabbinical student Jonathan Cohen and Jonathan Shaw, discussed the idea of creating a Jewish congregation in York County. Initially, conceived as a minyan, the rapid response and number of Jewish families necessitated establishing a formal congregation. Shaw was elected the first President and Cohen assumed the role of spiritual leader. On June 4, 2010, more than 170 people gathered for the first service of the new "Temple Kol Ami." Meeting in various locations, the synagogue eventually found a home at St. Phillipe Neri Catholic Church in Fort Mill.[3] Meeting there until June 2011, the synagogue has since relocated to the Historic Sanctuary of Unity Presbyterian Church also in Fort Mill.


Today, the congregation has more than 70 member families with a part-time rabbi and a Religious School. Shabbat services are held every first and third Shabbat. In September 2011, a Torah scroll was donated to the congregation by Temple Beth Israel (Niagara Falls, New York) after it announced it was disbanding in 2012.


  1. ^ Jessica Pickens (August 17, 2011). "Year later, Jewish congregation still growing". Fort Mill Times.
  2. ^ Michael Gordon (September 30, 2011). "Singing, praying, tossing". The Charlotte Observer.
  3. ^ Don Worthington (December 3, 2010). "Local Jews celebrate 1st Hanukkah service in York Co. in 50 years". Lake Wylie Pilot. Retrieved October 28, 2011.