It was 1968 when all but one Jewish family had left the town of Barnesboro. The Roots were the only Jewish family left, so the synagogue, which was built in 1925, closed its doors forever.
But it is to occupied again. The structure is to be restored and used by the United Way and other social services.
When it closed 42 years ago, each of the four Root children was given a piece of the synagogue's stained glass, which they display proudly in their homes. One of them, Paula Pimentel, who now lives in Altoona, cherishes the stained glass, a reminder of the synagogue.
(Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski) Paula Pimentel of Altoona displays a piece of stained glass from the synagogue in Northern Cambria in her home. She is one of the Root children who received stained glass when the synagogue closed. The historic building is to be renovated and used by the United Way and other social service agencies.
"It was a gathering place, and the Jewish families got together for the High Holidays," Pimentel said.
Pimentel's father, Ben Root, who has since moved to Boise, Idaho, fondly remembers the High Holy Days (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) at the synagogue.
When Root came to Barnesboro in the 1940s, the synagogue had closed. At the time there were a few Jewish families in the area, so Root pushed to reopen the synagogue.
"We opened it up again and used it for the holidays," Root said. "I felt it was a symbol to the people of the community that the Jewish people had been active and helped make Barnesboro what it was."
When the synagogue closed for the final time, it was given to the borough of Barnesboro, and the building was used for storage.
The Roots are happy about upcoming plans to make the former Jewish worship center viable again.
With the help of local, state and federal funds, the synagogue is expected to be restored outside and renovated inside and used by the United Way and other social service agencies.
The Coal Country Youth Hangout Center in Northern Cambria is behind the project, which is expected to cost $350,000.
"I'm really happy they're going to use the synagogue for something useful," Pimentel said. "I recommended the name Synergy for the building: synagogue and energy. It's a bringing of two forces. We're very, very pleased they're going to utilize this building."
The project has three parts.
Before the two building renovation projects begin, a historical workshop for Northern Cambria High School students will be organized.
As part of the Jewish Synagogue Project starting this fall, high school students will research the immigration of Jewish families to Barnesboro and their impact on the business community.
Students also will research the significance of the synagogue, which is the only one in Pennsylvania in a town with a population of less than 4,000 people.
The research project is funded by the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies and the Pennsylvania Humanities Council.
Once the research is finished, students will present their findings to the community.
"It will honor a group of people who contributed greatly to the success of our community," Deacon Ann Staples, who heads the project said. "It will restore the prominence of an important part of the faith community."