Temple Sinai Looks Back on 75 Years of History

Temple Sinai kicked off a yearlong celebration recognizing the synagogue’s 75th anniversary. And like every birthday, it had a party and by midnight it had probably stretched way longer than the average party for a 75-year-old.

The year 2016 is a special one for congregants of Temple Sinai.
It kicked off a yearlong celebration recognizing the Dresher synagogue’s 75th anniversary. And like every birthday, it had a party and by midnight it had probably stretched way longer than the average party for a 75-year-old.
About 400 people joined together for a gala on April 16 to eat, drink, dance and celebrate the milestone.
In its beginning, the synagogue was in West Oak Lane. It later moved to the suburbs, and its congregants followed.
That particular bit of history was outlined in a celebratory video — which made its debut at the gala — created using photographs and materials from congregants who shared memories of their time with the synagogue.
“It was fabulous, absolutely fabulous. I think it exceeded all expectations,” said Jill Ladov, the executive gala chair along with her husband, Joshua, and three other co-chairs: Jodi and Matthew Goodman, Karen and Michael Mann and Ilene and Stuart Fredd.
“It was a very proud Temple Sinai moment,” she said of the gala.
Ladov has been a member for 14 years, but her history with the synagogue spans way beyond that. Her great-grandparents were members, and now, with her two sons having both become Bar Mitzvahs there, her family is a fifth-generation member.
The generational aspect certainly came into play while the video was in its early stages.
There was a campaign throughout the congregation to solicit photos and footage for the ultimate video about the synagogue, and those who have been with the congregation for a longer period of time had a lot more early footage, she said. Tributes and interviews with congregants were interwoven throughout.
“I don’t think people have any idea what went into the planning, and that my ultimate goal, along with the committee, was to just provide this ‘wow’ factor,” she said.
Ladov began planning the gala in October after being asked to spearhead the event. Her goal was that the gala served as a way for people to feel more connected to Temple Sinai.
“My hope,” she said, “is that people walk out and feel a sense of pride and accomplishment that Temple Sinai has achieved 75 years as a pillar in the community and reinvigorates them to want to be an active part of the congregation.”
Looking back at the synagogue’s history and its place for the community, as well as her own family, she noted that a lot is owed to the leadership over 75 years.
“Life cycles are both good and bad,” she said, “and to have a place where you feel comfortable in celebrating and that you feel welcome to share in those events is very important.”
Rabbi Adam Wohlberg has been with Temple Sinai since July 2002.
The synagogue’s “illustrious” history was interesting to him and he hoped the gala was a way for younger members of the congregation to get to know more about their synagogue and where it started.
“People come to the synagogue for all types of celebrations throughout the year,” he said. “But it is particularly nice and exciting when people of all generations would come to celebrate the synagogue itself and how much it means to our community.”
Having congregants who went to Temple Sinai before its move outside of the city has given him a chance to learn more about its history and what it was like when it started.
Part of that, he continued, was because of the tremendous following and influence that the first leaders of the synagogue, Rabbi Sidney Greenberg and Cantor Nathan Chaitovsky, were able to create.
The theme of “generations” applies to Wohlberg as well. His wife’s “maternal grandfather signed the original charter for the synagogue and her mother grew up at Temple Sinai.” His children are fourth-generation members, and it is nice for him and his wife to be in a place with a “sense of family history.”
The gala also served as an opportunity to celebrate Nathan and Mary Relles and Stan and Jackie Silverman, two couples who have been with the synagogue more than 30 years.
The gala showed how important they are to the synagogue — and how important the synagogue is to them as well.
“Because we are celebrating the congregation’s longevity,” he said, “it’s nice to celebrate with people who joined the synagogue 30 or more years ago and who continued to feel that it has a special place in their lives.”
Both the Relleses and the Silvermans were an “easy choice” to honor, said Jeffrey Hampton, president of Temple Sinai.
“We not only wanted to celebrate our 75 years, but also wanted to celebrate a little bit about how we have become what we are,” Hampton said. “And not only that, but what our congregants do to contribute to the greater community.”
Each couple has given monetary contributions to the synagogue over the years but also, most importantly, their time, he said. Friends and family of each couple  — many of whom are not members of the synagogue — were invited to attend the gala and see them honored.
Hampton, who has served as president for two years and will soon enter a third, grew up in western Pennsylvania attending a reform synagogue. After he met his wife, who lived in Elkins Park, she suggested going to a conservative synagogue, which was her background.
Though it was a big transition for Hampton, they never looked back. They joined Temple Sinai, and Hampton immediately felt a connection.
“What I found when we moved to Upper Dublin and joined Temple Sinai … was a sense of welcoming and community,” he said. “It’s a tight-knit community.”
The message of community is a big one for him, as he feels that is truly what the synagogue has become.
“This isn’t just a place to go to services every so often,” he said. “This is your second home. This is a place we can be together and experience things.
“What I hope for the synagogue is that it can continue to be a place where our members and member families through the years continue to feel at home,” he continued, “to feel that there is a place where they can have their needs met in terms of spirituality but also in terms of being able to grow a continuing sense of community together.”
He was most looking forward to the debut of the video and being able to watch it together as a community — from whom he suspected there would be many tears — and see “the story of Temple Sinai.”
“Temple Sinai is what I would describe as a ‘menschy’ synagogue,” Hampton said. “It’s a synagogue where there are no airs, people are comfortable being themselves. There are a lot of synagogues that are warm places, but we are really a very special, strongly bound community together.
“To be able to celebrate 75 years as a congregation is really a very special thing,” he added, “and in my view now is we go forward as we make our way through the year … and continue to build for our next 75 years.”
Contact: mstern@jewishexponent.com; 215-832-0740


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