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History of Sinai Temple

 

Sinai Temple began in 1931 when newlyweds Samuel and Helen Simons decided that Springfield, Massachusetts needed an alternative to the Orthodox and Conservative synagogues in the area. The last major congregation to have been founded in the community was Temple Beth El, a Conservative congregation, which came into being in 1910.

Although Sam Simons had grown up in Springfield without a Reform presence, Helen had grown up in a large Reform congregation in West Hartford. She and Sam wanted to bring that kind of religious opportunity to Springfield.

Services began in individual homes. After that, a house was purchased on Sumner Avenue and remodeled to serve as home for the growing congregation. During the beginning years of the congregation, Rabbis David Eichhorn, Judah Cohn, and Hershel Levin led the congregation. Then, with the arrival of Rabbi Herman Eliot Snyder in 1947, a building drive led to the purchase of land at what was then the "outskirts" of Springfield. Ground was broken for the building Sinai now occupies on August 15, 1949. The building at 1100 Dickinson Street was completed in 1950. Not too long after that, the other Jewish institutions of Springfield followed Sinai so that they are now familiar landmarks at the Dickinson Street/Converse Street intersection: the Jewish Community Center, Jewish Geriatric Services, Heritage Academy plus Temple Beth El.

Rabbi Snyder's era, from 1947 to 1970, saw the congregation grow from 100 families to 450 families. With that growth came a Religious School, Hebrew and Bar/Bat Mitzvah instruction, a Cantor and choir, a well-stocked library, and a commitment to community.

When Rabbi Snyder became Rabbi Emeritus, Rabbi Bernard Cohen guided the congregation through a year of transition. He was followed by Rabbi Stanley Davids (1971-1977), Rabbi Howard Kaplansky (1977-1983), and Rabbi Bernard Bloomstone (1983-1988).

In 1979, Emily Sleeper Mekler came to the congregation as Cantor. Cantor Mekler brought her musical talents along with great warmth and devotion to the children and adults of the community. She nurtured Bnai Mitzvah students so that their degree of knowledge and comfort on the bimah grew noticeably over the years. She created an Adult Choir and a Junior Choir which enhanced worship. She also created many special musical services and concerts over the years that involved congregants of all ages.

In 1988, Rabbi Mark Dov Shapiro arrived in our community. Rabbi Shapiro brought enthusiasm, a can-do spirit, along with a heartfelt traditional way of embracing Judaism, tzedakah, Torah, and social action.

Rabbi Shapiro has overseen the beautification of the Temple; the establishment of a second endowment fund; the enrichment of our Religious School, and the expansion of our social action programming. The Rabbi is also devoted to Torah Study and offers a weekly Shabbat morning class.

Sinai Temple has also been blessed with excellent lay leadership, both male and female. Throughout the years, each president and his or her Board of Directors have contributed much to the tenor and health of the Temple.

In 2006, the congregation marked its 75th anniversary. The year's celebration included restoration of the congregation's Torah scrolls, a first complete Scholar in Residence weekend, an adult Hebrew reading program that involved over seventy-five learners, creation of the congregation's Mission Statement, raising funds to build a playground for a public school in Springfield, and a "swim-a-thon" which raised funds to provide swimming lessons for needy children in Springfield. Every child in the Religious School also participated in creating a tile mosaic called "The Alphabet of our Jewish Lives" that now hangs in the Oneg Shabbat Room.

In July 2008, Martin Levson began his tenure at Sinai. Cantor Levson has brought much experience and a wealth of musical knowledge to the community. The addition of his guitar in services plus his great success in creating a youth choir called Shir Fun have enriched our community tremendously.

Starting in June 2012, Sinai has also welcomed Heather Sullivan as our Religious School educator. She has very quickly become an integral part of Sinai Temple's story.

In October 2013, a gala weekend was held celebrating Rabbi Shapiro's 25th anniversary with the congregation. In June 2016, the congregation honored Rabbi Shapiro upon his retirement.

As of July 1, 2016, Rabbi Howard Kosovske is acting as an interim rabbi for two years while the search for a new permanent rabbi takes place.

We hope you’ll want to learn more about Sinai. Call us, please. We are eager to welcome you into our community.

As of July, 2016

© 2012/5773 Sinai Temple 1100 Dickinson St. Springfield Massachusetts 01108