Temple Sinai Remains Steady and Reliable


After the pandemic broke out in March 2020, Temple Sinai in Dresher made like most congregations and pivoted to the digital space.

Two years later, the Conservative synagogue is still living there, but it’s also back open in the physical space. As other Jewish communities try to figure out their hybrid futures, Temple Sinai lives and gathers in a hybrid present.

For the High Holidays last fall, temple leaders reopened their doors but also offered an online option; at an adult education class, attendance is higher than it was before the pandemic due to Zoom and livestream components; and at the synagogue’s religious school, students can learn from home during the weeknight class, though they still need to show up in person for the Sunday morning session.

“We want to continue this hybrid option because it’s providing a service to people,” Temple Sinai Executive Director Ari Goldberg said.

During the pandemic, Sinai leaders learned just how inconvenient it was for many members to come in on weeknights. Some older congregants didn’t want to drive at night; some younger parents barely had time to bring their kids to Hebrew school.

Hybrid options make synagogue life more accessible, according to Goldberg. They even open up Temple Sinai to Jews outside of the Philadelphia area, who have joined local congregants at various activities.

“It’s been incredible seeing how easily many people transition to that,” he said.

Temple Sinai congregants at a winter event. (Courtesy of Temple Sinai)

He could say the same about the synagogue in general. Goldberg credited temple staff, especially in the Hebrew school, for transitioning almost overnight and adapting the transition’s features into more long-term changes.

“My impression is it was a staff that was very willing and open to pivoting quickly, being creative,” Goldberg said.

Temple Sinai counts 400 families in its congregation and close to 100 students in its preschool.

If you talk to congregants, it’s the synagogue’s reliability that keeps them coming back.

Marla Kepniss of Maple Glen joined 15 years ago. Her kids went through preschool and religious school at the Dresher institution. But even though their children are older now, Kepniss and her husband are still members.

She serves on the board of directors and on various committees. He’s part of the Men’s Club.

“It feels like a place where we want to spend our time,” Kepniss said.

Greg Halperin of Dresher agrees with Kepniss. Halperin, the synagogue’s executive vice president, has been a member for 19 years, and he’s seen his son and daughter become a bar and bat mitzvah, respectively, at Temple Sinai.

“It’s really just been home,” he said.

One reason he feels that way is because of Sinai’s senior rabbi, Adam Wohlberg.

Halperin called Wohlberg “a very knowledgeable guy,” a quality that comes through in his sermons and in private conversations. According to the longtime member, the rabbi is staunchly pro-Israel when it comes to politics; he’s also good at applying Jewish values to the complicated and divisive political issues of the day.

“I like the way he infuses Judaism into everything he’s talking about,” Halperin said.

More important than his perspective, though, is how Wohlberg cares about congregants, according to Goldberg. The executive director, who only joined the temple 10 months ago but is a regular at Shabbat services, even went as far as calling the rabbi a “mensch.”

Wohlberg, now in his 20th year leading the congregation, said that engaging with families is his favorite part of the job.

Rabbi Adam Wohlberg, front, with Temple Sinai students. (Courtesy of Temple Sinai)

It was the reason he came to Temple Sinai in the early 2000s. He had family members who were congregants, and he had attended a bat mitzvah at the Dresher institution, so he knew of the synagogue’s reputation for having active families at every stage of the life cycle: preschool, the bar and bat mitzvah program and up through the age brackets.

The reputation turned out to be true.

“I’ve immensely enjoyed being part of the family’s lives, celebrating with them, helping them through challenging moments, watching their commitment to Jewish life increase,” Wohlberg said.

Synagogue leaders are in the process of planning a 20th-anniversary event to celebrate their rabbi. And it will be in person, too.

Goldberg expects congregants to come out because they did so for other gatherings. At a recent Purim program for preschool families, Goldberg was stunned by the number of people who attended.

“What it taught us is that, while families are being careful, they do recognize what they’ve missed,” he said. JE

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