RAPID CITY, S.D. – 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.