RELIGION

South Dakota has fewest Jewish people in US and no permanent rabbi, but community tightly knit

  • In this Sept. 12, 2014 photo student rabbi Sara Eiser, visiting from rabbinical school in Cincinnati, Ohio, goes over her notes before shabbat service at the Synagogue of the Black Hills in Rapid City, S.D. South Dakota’s first Jewish congregation was established in Deadwood more than 150 years ago during the Gold Rush. Today, fewer than 400 people make up the Jewish community in this sparsely populated state of about 845,000 residents.  (AP Photo/Kristina Barker)

    In this Sept. 12, 2014 photo student rabbi Sara Eiser, visiting from rabbinical school in Cincinnati, Ohio, goes over her notes before shabbat service at the Synagogue of the Black Hills in Rapid City, S.D. South Dakota’s first Jewish congregation was established in Deadwood more than 150 years ago during the Gold Rush. Today, fewer than 400 people make up the Jewish community in this sparsely populated state of about 845,000 residents. (AP Photo/Kristina Barker)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Sept. 12, 2014 photo, student rabbi Sara Eiser, visiting from rabbinical school in Cincinnati, Ohio, goes over her notes before shabbat service at the Synagogue of the Black Hills in Rapid City, S.D. South Dakota's Jewish community is so small that neither of the synagogues in the state has a  permanent rabbi and members worry about its future as very few young families are coming along to sustain it. (AP Photo/Kristina Barker)

    In this Sept. 12, 2014 photo, student rabbi Sara Eiser, visiting from rabbinical school in Cincinnati, Ohio, goes over her notes before shabbat service at the Synagogue of the Black Hills in Rapid City, S.D. South Dakota's Jewish community is so small that neither of the synagogues in the state has a permanent rabbi and members worry about its future as very few young families are coming along to sustain it. (AP Photo/Kristina Barker)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this Sept. 12, 2014 photo, student rabbi Sara Eiser, visiting from rabbinical school in Cincinnati, Ohio, goes over her notes before shabbat service at the Synagogue of the Black Hills in Rapid City, S.D. South Dakota’s first Jewish congregation was established in Deadwood more than 150 years ago during the Gold Rush. Today, fewer than 400 people make up the Jewish community in this sparsely populated state of about 845,000 residents.  (AP Photo/Kristina Barker)

    In this Sept. 12, 2014 photo, student rabbi Sara Eiser, visiting from rabbinical school in Cincinnati, Ohio, goes over her notes before shabbat service at the Synagogue of the Black Hills in Rapid City, S.D. South Dakota’s first Jewish congregation was established in Deadwood more than 150 years ago during the Gold Rush. Today, fewer than 400 people make up the Jewish community in this sparsely populated state of about 845,000 residents. (AP Photo/Kristina Barker)  (The Associated Press)

The first Jews to settle in what is now South Dakota established themselves in Deadwood during the Gold Rush over 150 years ago, finding a niche selling hardware, groceries, dry goods and more.

By 1920, the state was home to some 1,300 Jews. That community has dwindled to an estimated 390 people. No state has fewer.

It's a small, but tightknit flock that makes do without a permanent rabbi and worries too few children are coming along to sustain it.

Steve Benn is a doctor who serves as lay leader at Rapid City's Synagogue of the Hills. He says "nobody wants to be the last one to turn the lights out."

Benn orchestrates bar mitzvah ceremonies, performs ritual circumcisions and conducts funeral services.