RICHLAND -- Congregation Beth Sholom has come a long way since it started 60 years ago.
Rhoda Lewis, one of the founders, remembers when it numbered six families, and they worshiped in their homes.
On Sunday, the congregation of about 50 families will celebrate its 60th anniversary. Congregation Beth Sholom, which means, "House of Peace" is the only Jewish synagogue in the Tri-Cities.
Lewis, 87, said her husband Milt moved to the Tri-Cities in 1948 to work at Hanford.
When thousands of young families moved to Richland as part of the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb during World War II, the government established Protestant and Catholic churches.
But there wasn't a Jewish congregation until the six Jewish families decided to start one.
As the number of Jewish families started to increase, the fledgling congregation rented the band room of Columbia High School, now Richland High School, Lewis said. That lasted until band members interrupted a service to put instruments away after a football game.
The congregation still worships in the synagogue they dedicated in 1959 at 312 Thayer Drive in Richland.
Families pledged what they could to pay for the building, Lewis said. And the congregation raised money, including selling 100 raffle tickets for a car.
Since then, Debbie Greene, congregation president, said the congregation has enlarged the synagogue, remodeled the kosher kitchen and purchased its own prayer books.
When the congregation began, Lewis said they used five sets of prayer books and whoever led the service chose which set to use. Since then, the congregation has affiliated with a conservative sect.
The congregation has two Torahs, which are the first five books of the Old Testament. Greene said they read from them weekly.
"It tells our story," she said.
The congregation's first Torah was rescued from Poland during the Nazi occupation and shipped to the United States. The group purchased it from an East Coast dealer in the 1960s.
The congregation never has had a full-time rabbi. Greene said it's something they just haven't been able to afford. But that doesn't stop them from performing all the functions of a synagogue. And they bring in a guest rabbi for holidays and other events.
Congregation Beth Sholom does baby naming, death services and everything in between, Greene said.
Sabbath services are held Friday nights and Saturday mornings. A religious school for children is held Sundays, with additional classes to prepare those who will be 13 for their bar or bat mitzvah.
The congregation also brings study sessions and speakers to the synagogue. For example, a Spokane rabbi will teach sessions called "Holocaust and Beyond" starting in October.
Even when only a few members can attend a service, Greene said it still is held. She once held a Friday night service for three people.
Being a small congregation can be a challenge. For example, Greene said along with two funerals, regular services and the anniversary, the congregation has several holidays to observe this time of year.
Sukkot, the weeklong harvest festival, started Wednesday. The congregation recently finished observing the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
"It is hard, but we do it," she said. "And I am proud that we do."
When the congregation celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2000, five of the 15 founding members still were active. Now, Lewis said it's down to her and Doris Lewis.
But the founding members still are remembered at least once a year. Greene said the congregation says the names of members who have passed away on the anniversary of their deaths.
Greene said it's a way to remember each person's soul.
"Christians live for the hereafter," Greene said. "That's our hereafter."