Today is April 8, 2020 -
May this, Thy House, be our fortress of strength, to give us courage for the Challenge of Life.
THIS IS TEMPLE SINAI, THE JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER OF HOLLYWOOD
A Reflection by Lillian Sorin and Jared Anton
The Early Years
In the fall of 1940, the common bond of Judaism brought together a handful of residents of Hollywood and its vicinity to repent and pray together in the spirit of ritualism so customary to the High Holy Day Services. There was no temple, no rabbi, and no Torah; but to worship and to commune with God has been a source of solace and inspiration for century upon century of Jewish history; and so, these few devoted souls planned that God’s house be contained in the original Veteran of Foreign Wars Hall on the corner of Dixie Highway and Washington Street. Calls were made for a visiting rabbi, but none being available; that first service was conducted by the lay people. Chairs, prayer books and shawls were borrowed and when the Kol Nidre was chanted that October of 1940, even the impending threat of an oncoming hurricane could not diminish the spiritual uplift that those in attendance encountered.
At that time, Hollywood was a young city of 3,400 residents, with perhaps ten or fifteen Jewish families; but these first services drew a Jewish population from the entire area to the North, including Fort Lauderdale and Pompano; and because Jewry has always organized its life around the group feeling, these same people believed that it would be pleasant to meet together on a social basis.
The Jewish Community Center of Hollywood is Chartered
Once each week they would meet in each other’s homes to indulge in conversation, cards, and refreshment. The months passed, the circle of visits widened, and the gatherings grew larger‑‑ almost too large to be accommodated in the home. The next step was to find a common meeting place and, as first one place then another was tried, a spark was kindled for the formation of a non‑profit organization, with permanent quarters, to nurture continued sociability for all age groups–children as well as adults. It was thus that on June 15, 1942, the Jewish Community Center of Hollywood was chartered to establish, maintain and operate a Community Center, to provide a place for people to meet for recreational, educational, amusement, religious, or other purposes; to further the social life of the community and to develop a civic consciousness and responsibility in its membership; and to provide and maintain a place for the relaxation and pleasure of the members of this organization and their guests.
Through the efforts of such Mrs. Samuel Zaconick (Mr. Z, as he was known, had the distinction of being the first elected president of the Center) and Mr. and Mrs. Max Young, by‑laws and standing rules were proposed whereby the aims and purposes of the group were outlined and membership dues established. Thus assured of a definite income, in 1943 the Center moved into its first permanent quarters‑-a vacant store in the rear of the Morse Arcade on Hollywood Boulevard.
This became the hub of all Jewish activity. Weekly meetings for sociability became fund-raising events to pay the rent. Bingo and card parties, picnics and dances … and the membership grew. It was at this time that the Ladies Auxiliary (now Sisterhood) was organized and, true to tradition, it was the women who planned and promoted the social affairs of the group, while the chief function of the parent organization was to prepare for the High Holy Day services and other major religious celebrations.
These had been war years. Families had been separated, many uprooted, never to return; yet others were brought to the area due to local military installations. The end of the war saw the young men returning, some with families of their own. Families who had been stationed here had learned to enjoy the life of South Florida and stayed on. The peace brought tourism, many of the tourists stayed, and the membership grew.
First Sefer Torah, Prayer Books, and Shawls
It was through the gracious thankfulness of such tourists that the Center received its first Sefer Torah, prayer books, and shawls. To commemorate the safe return of their two sons from the European war theatre, winter visitors Mr. & Mrs. David Feldman and their families made the presentation in reverence that the Lord exercises mercy, justice and righteousness on earth.
As the young families grew, the Ladies Auxiliary again took action. They contacted the Bureau of Jewish Education in Miami for material and counsel, hired a young teacher and organized the first Sunday School. The room in the Morse Arcade was serving yet another purpose and the membership grew. The Center now gratified not only the social, but also the religious and educational need of the community. As the walls of the small room burst in activity, early in 1944 the first step was taken toward the attainment of a permanent home.
A building committee was organized, architectural plans were drawn and a program of fund-raising events was scheduled. It was a milestone of accomplishment when, on February 25, 1945, the first Building Fund Dinner and Dance was held at the Hollywood Country Club, the first Souvenir Journal was printed and the news announced that the land for the building had been so generously donated by the Wohl Family.
The year 1946 was a year of tremendous progress. The move into a permanent home on Polk Street (now the Fred Lippman Multi-Purpose Center), and the growing population of the area were stimuli to much activity. Membership in both the parent organization and the Ladies Auxiliary more than doubled. Friday evening and Saturday morning services became an integral part of the Center curriculum; both an adult and junior choir were organized; the religious school grew, regular bar mitzvah classes were held, there were study groups, public forums, youth and junior clubs. Call were part of the growth within the organization. This was also the year that the Center affiliated with its first spiritual leader, Rabbi Max Kaufman.
In the years that followed, the Center’s growth was phenomenal. Friday evening services drew capacity attendance that began to overflow into standing room. The religious and Hebrew schools had enrollments nearing 100 and adding to the long list of groups meeting within the Center were the Young Judea, United Synagogue Youth, Parent-Teacher Group, B’nai Brith Youth, B’nai Brith Auxiliary, Jewish War Veterans, Zionists, and the Cub Scouts.
These were the years that a farewell was bid to Rabbi and Mrs. Kaufman and a Shalom extended to Rabbi and Mrs. Jacob J. Honig. In 1953, the tragic and untimely death of Rabbi Honig led the new Temple Sinai, The Jewish Community Center of Hollywood to the wonderful spirit, devotion, and inspiration of Rabbi David Shapiro and his beloved Leila.
To the list of affiliated groups comprising the Temple Family was now added the Men’s Club, dedicated to cement the bond of brotherly love amongst all people, and the Minyan Club (fondly referred to in later years as the Minyanaires) dedicated to facilitate the call to religious service. In the spirit of Conservative Judaism, the United Synagogue of America recognized Temple Sinai for the active and significant contribution of each of its groups to the enrichment of Jewish life. Under the direction of Cantor Yehudah L. Heilbraun, the music and song of Jewish life were reborn within the Temple walls. The Men’s Club weekly luncheons established a camaraderie of spirit that only good food, fine speeches, and fellowship could nurture. In 1958, the Congregation of Temple Sinai conferred a lifetime contract to Rabbi Shapiro.
There was a second building expansion in 1956, adding beautification and air-conditioning, but the seed had been planted. Continued growth meant the need for a new home. That year, the New Building Committee of Temple Sinai was established. And in 1958, the chai year of existence, through the efforts of such staunch supporters and workers as Harry Stadler, Herman Goodman, William Horvitz, Seymour Mann and many others, action was taken on the first stage of a new building on Johnson Street. Completed in 1960, it opened just in time for the High Holy Days, where all members heard the resonant chant of the Kol Nidre.
The new Temple Sinai was officially dedicated in April 1962. The Dedication ceremonies were held in the middle of a terrible rain storm. Senator George Smathers was the guest speaker and although the tremendous wind of the storm had blown over the massive tent that had been erected on the outside grounds, nothing could dampen the spirit and enthusiasm of the huge crowd or such devoted planners as Fred Greene and Sidney Kay.
Later that same year, Temple Sinai consecrated its cemetery grounds at Mt. Sinai Cemetery in Opa Locka and the Minyan Club built the center gate posts that mark our portion of the cemetery.
During the 1960s, the nursery school, kindergarten, and religious school grew to over 350 students. Led first by Dr. Herbert and Ruth Harari and later by Oscar and Miriam Schmerler, Temple Sinai’s educational programs reached tremendous heights and brought more honor and recognition to the congregation.
It was also during this time that the Temple expanded its facilities. The generosity of several notable families gave us the Louis Zinn Memorial Chapel (which sat 102 worshipers and included its own kitchen, a bride’s room, and several offices) and the Lipman Youth Center (with its own kitchen and meeting rooms).
The 1970s were a time of stability. Bingo was held regularly in the Haber-Karp Social Hall, and the Temple hosted a myriad of religious and other events. In 1977, Rabbi Shapiro took emeritus status and the Temple experienced the difficult task of trying to find a suitable successor. Several short-term rabbis led the congregation, including Rabbi Paul Katz, before the Temple finally found a long-term replacement in Rabbi Richard Margolis.
In 1981, the Temple honored its long-time legal advisor with the dedication of the Paul B. Anton Religious School. Rev. Yitzhak Goldenholz began his long tenure as Ritual Director. The Sisterhood published “What’s Cooking at Temple Sinai” in 1987 with recipes provided by many members of the congregation. The next year, led by four young families, the Temple re-established its preschool. Marlene Pinsker was hired as its first director and ten children graced the new preschool classrooms that first year.
Rabbi Randall Konigsburg was brought aboard in 1991. His energetic wife Michelle served as religious school director for many years.
The Temple Moves to its Permanent Home on North 46th Avenue
This was a time, however, of financial difficulties. The Temple building was deteriorating and there was simply no money to make necessary repairs. As bad as it was for Temple Sinai, others had it worse. Temple Beth Shalom, the other Conservative synagogue in Hollywood, had closed its doors, its building foreclosed upon. Yet that tragic event created an opportunity for the survival of Temple Sinai. The bank that foreclosed on Temple Beth Shalom also held the mortgage on Temple Sinai’s property. The bank offered to exchange properties with financial incentives to Temple Sinai. The quality of Temple Beth Shalom’s facilities on 46th Avenue along with the recognition that a majority of Temple Sinai’s members (including many of Temple Beth Shalom’s former members) now lived west of I-95 led Temple Sinai’s Board to accept the bank’s offer. In 1994 there was a cavalcade parade of convertibles of Board members holding the sacred Torahs slowly moving along Johnson Street as Temple Sinai relocated to its current home.
With its new home, Temple Sinai stabilized, its membership remaining consistent. In 2006, Rabbi Konigsburg left and Rabbi Dr. Gideon Goldenholz was hired. This allowed the new Rabbi to serve on the bima along with his beloved father Yitzhak, the Temple’s longtime sexton. It was an incredibly heartwarming sight for all.
In 2007, the preschool received a tremendous gift from its longtime benefactor, Harriet Kasselman, in memory of her late husband Kenneth. This was the largest financial gift in the long history of Temple Sinai and the refurbishing of the Kasselman Early Childhood Education Center allowed it to grow and flourish.
The continued growth of the preschool and the recognition that the long-term survival of the synagogue led the Board to approve the construction of a new preschool building in 2011, accompanied by the leasing of the existing school building to a charter school, BridgePrep. This significant financial endeavor would not have been possible without the full support of presidents Dr. Barry Alter and Dr. Larry Marks, the acquisition of full bank financing arranged by Lloyd Edelstein, and the committee leadership of Jared Anton. In 2015, the new preschool building was dedicated.
This latest expansion of our facilities continued the fulfillment of yesteryear=s visions as so beautifully expressed in 1960 by the beloved Rabbi Shapiro, just as appropriate today:
A magnificent House of Worship; inspiring a reverence in the hearts of its worshipers; serving all the needs of its people-‑religious, educational, social and communal. A school-house of spacious classrooms where the children will study the Torah, the Hebrew Language, Jewish history, Bible prayers and the Word of God. A center with a gymnasium and playground for relaxation. A communal hall, club rooms, meeting rooms and library. A Temple-Center, where the spirit of brotherhood, goodwill, harmony and true fellowship will reign supreme. A House of Prayer, a House of Assembly and a House of Study, this is Temple Sinai, The Jewish Community Center of Hollywood. “O may we ever maintain and preserve that which is built and bring to fruition the seed that is sown.”
This is dedicated to the members of original charter group: Mr. and Mrs. Ben Biegelsen, Mr. and Mrs. David Feldman, Mr. and Mrs. David Sokolow, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Breiner, Mr. and Mrs. H. Ardie Fincke, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Yaguda, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Daniels, Dr. and Mrs. Maxwell Hartman, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Zaconick. We are here today because of their insight and dedication.