Temple Sinai and the State of Israel are Celebrating Their 70th Anniversary This Year - 5778
So many simchas! During the New Year 5778, Temple Sinai will be celebrating its 70th anniversary along with the 70th anniversary of the State of Israel. It’s going to be an exciting year! Welcome to a new section of the Scribe. Each month we will highlight a decade in the life of our Temple as part of a yearlong celebration of Temple Sinai. Our story will be told primarily from the words and pictures of Larry Krasnoff’s beautiful book, Temple Sinai of Roslyn. We will showcase clergy, distinguished speakers, as well as groups and events that are a part of our history. We will look back at where, who, and how we have grown since 1948.
A Temple is Born – The 40’s
The origin of Temple Sinai is a classic story of community and interfaith fellowship. The population of the greater Roslyn area increased to about 9,000 during the years of World War II. The grand estate of John Mackay, “Harbor Hill”, was closed and its property and surrounding tracts were available for development. In 1945, Levitt and Sons, who built affordable homes for veterans, developed the first community of East Park; the communities of South Park, Browers Hill, West Park, Strathmore and Country Club followed. Other developers created Norgate, Nob Hill, Country Estates, Fairfield Park, and Canterbury Estates. Approximately one-third of its new population, about 3,000 of the residents, were Jewish. But, there were no local synagogues and the Jewish residents became conscious of a growing need for a Jewish congregation in the community.
In 1947, Josh Adelstein and other Jewish families went to Rabbi Jacob P. Rudin of Temple Beth El in Great Neck, the Reverend John Van Zanten, minister of the Roslyn Presbyterian Church, and Forrester W. Pierce, owner of the Pierce Country Day School for help and guidance. These men were of great assistance to our Jewish community in these formative years. Read more.
The 50's. The era of the baby boomer. Elvis broke hearts. The Corvette debuted, along with Mickey Mouse and the hula hoop. The middle class grew. NASA was created. Television entered homes. So much was happening, growing, changing. But to us, members of Temple Sinai, it is especially important to know this decade was also a time of much growth and change for our synagogue.
The Roslyn Jewish Community Center drafted its Constitution and By-Laws on January 21, 1949 and adopted them a year later on January 4, 1950. At the meeting of June 27, 1950, the congregation adopted its current name, Temple Sinai. While the Temple was under construction, services were held at the Roslyn Presbyterian Church.
On August 27, 1950, a dedication ceremony was held at the new synagogue at which Temple President, Herbert H. Hyman, symbolically returned the keys of the Roslyn Presbyterian Church to Reverend John Van Zanten.
In 1951, with the support of Rabbi Alvan Rubin, Temple Sinai officially established itself as a Reform Temple by authorizing the ground rules of religious observation for its services in the "liberal reform manner". However, a group of congregants was opposed to the Reform-styled services and proposed a Conservative synagogue. Read more.
The 60’s and 70’s were times of growth and advancement as well as turmoil and upheaval. 1960 began with the election of John F. Kennedy and 1979 saw Ayatollah Khomeini return to power in Iran. During those decades we experienced optimism, protesting, and everything in between. Martin Luther King was silenced but his dream was not. Billie Jean King took a swing for women’s rights. Apple was created and Nixon resigned. The first man walked on the moon and Temple Sinai took many significant steps of its own.
Since its inception, Temple Sinai has been a cultural beacon of learning and discussion in the community. The committees that serve as arms of the synagogue have welcomed a diverse spectrum of distinguished lecturers. The list of distinguished speakers at Temple Sinai mirror to the conscience of the congregation, a social barometer of the country and a reaction to the events of the world. Those speakers, from the worlds of politics, religion, business, media and the arts are yet another example of the Temple’s contributions to the congregation and to the community. The speakers at Temple Sinai during the 1960?s reflected those turbulent years and included Bishop James Pike, former Dean of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in Manhattan, Dr. Maurice Eisendrath, President of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the parent body of Reform Judaism, and Dr. Ralph J. Bunche, former Under-Secretary of the United Nations. Read more.
During the 60’s and 70’s decades, Temple Sinai its own share of growth and the need to replace. We are all the better for the expansion, growth and changes our Temple has gone through to be what it has been for so many and continues to be for all of us - our home.
Temple Sinai celebrated its 25th anniversary with a rededication program that lasted from May 5-7, 1972, including a special Sabbath service conducted by Rabbi Norman Kahan. The congregation welcomed back its first Rabbi, Alvan D. Rubin, for special commemorative honors. The Rev. John W. Van Zanten, an honorary member of Temple Sinai, was given a special presentation by Herbert H. Hyman, senior past president of the Temple. The Reverend was instrumental in the founding of Temple Sinai by allowing the members of the congregation to hold their religious services in his church for more than two years while Temple Sinai was being built. Thomas T. (“Buddy”) Pierce, also received special honors for permitting the Temple?s Sunday school classes to be conducted at the Pierce Country Day School during the formative years of the Temple. Read more.
The 80s was a pivotal decade that built a foundation for so much of our lives today. Motorola first introduced the mobile phone; the granddaddy of the smartwatch. We mourned John Lennon and danced to Michael Jackson. Michael Jordan was, well, Michael Jordan. Post-its and Pac-Man debuted and changed how we work and play. Yuppies cheered for Cheers and Dallas. The Berlin Wall came down, the cold war ended, and the Olympics were boycotted. While all of this was going on, our Temple was going through changes in both structure and leadership.
Temple Sinai underwent a major renovation commencing in 1983 that included complete refurbishment and redecoration of the Main Hall and Sinai Hall, as well as the sanctuary, classrooms, and Temple offices. There were also upgrades to heating and air conditioning systems, sound system, a new roof and parking lot. Temple Sinai was rededicated at a special service on June 2, 1985 to mark completion of construction. Read more.
The Nineties remind us of the kaleidoscopic events and emotions that marked the last decade of the twentieth century: While we lost Yitzhak Rabin, JFK Jr., and Princess Diana, Nelson Mandela regained his freedom. Research expanded on global warming while our TVs were tuned to Friends and Seinfeld. Amazon and email were just warming up and everyone everywhere wanted a PlayStation. Wayne Gretzky was on fire and Steven Spielberg made Schindler’s List everything it should be. Through it all, Temple Sinai reflected the times by focusing on preservation of what we have while embracing the future.
This decade started with a project to preserve the Torahs at Temple Sinai. Neil H. Yerman, a professional Scribe, was engaged in June 1991 to examine and restore our Torahs. They were between 45 and 150 years old, with the oldest torah also being the first torah given to the infant Temple Sinai. In 1950, this gift was bestowed by congregant Edith Hyman in memory of her father, Edward Tannenbaum. Read more.
We survived the Y2K scare and made it into the new millennium. A contested presidential election was ultimately decided by the Supreme Court. Then lives and life changed on September 11, 2001. That attack led to the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions which affect us to this day. Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast and exposed an already decaying infrastructure. Facebook was founded and launched a new age in social media. Through it all, Temple Sinai remained a stabilizing force in a drastically changing world.
2000 - 2010
Following the horror of September 11th, 2001, Rabbi White gave sermons and met with congregants to try to make sense of a world in turmoil. In October 2005, he galvanized the congregation in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina’s devastation and destruction. Through the coordinated effort of the Temple’s Social Action Committee, donated supplies filled a 50-foot, 18-wheel tractor-trailer, which was delivered to an operations center in Jackson, Mississippi for distribution to New Orleans evacuees. Read more.
This last decade has given our temple so much. It has also given us, as a society, The Hunger Games, The Big Bang Theory, and Pitch Perfect. Hmm, pitch perfect…who do we know who is pitch perfect? Yes, all three have the last name Schwartz! Climate change and political division have both caused chaos and brought us together. Many people are driving electric cars or getting around in driverless cars. The Apple watch has become a fashion statement for some, and a necessity for others. Several states have legalized growing and selling cannabis. The times they are a changin’! Together, we at Temple Sinai are excited to watch what our future holds. Here’s to the next 70 years being even more extraordinary than the first
2011 - Present
This decade brought exciting changes to life at Temple Sinai. Rabbi White initiated several new programs including Chazak and Sinai in the City. In 2012, we welcomed Cantor Sergei Schwartz to our community. In 2013, his wife, Cantor Elena Schwartz became the Director of our Religious School Program. Cantor Elena was installed in 2015 as part of the clergy and assumed the title of Cantor-Educator. She continues to revise and improve our excellent school program to meet the needs of today’s families. The Cantors brought us new tunes and updated Shabbat services. On holidays, we have the pleasure of hearing Lior Schwartz sing with his father.
We celebrated the tenth anniversary of our Youth Engagement Director, Alison Stamm, in June 2016 at a festive Shabbat service and dinner in her honor. Ali made our youth program the place to be for teens. She transformed the program into an exciting group of “clubs” including: Hand In Hand, which gives teens an opportunity to work with and mentor homeless children, Generation Equality, the advocacy group for LGBTQ equality and other current concerns, and the Tzdakah group, which researches worthy organizations and decides where to make a generous donation. During Ali’s tenure, our teen travel programs were developed, and participants have spent their February holiday break working on mitzvah projects in Israel, New Orleans and Puerto Rico. Under her guidance the teen program grew to record numbers. A short time later, Ali Stamm became the Executive Director of Temple Sinai and Lulu Belfeder became the Director of Youth Engagement. Lulu continues to enhance our remarkable teen program by revising and adding new ideas to keep teens involved. Read more.