Message from Rabbi

Posted on August 20, 2022

Dear Friends,

     We had a tough transition from the end of spring into summer. We lost a number of amazing people in our congregation. Essy Davidowitz, z”l (Zichrona Livracha, May her memory be a blessing) was a constant support and inspiration to everyone she touched. Her legacy will live on at Temple Israel. Shirley Sullum, z”l, was the essence of kindness and her ever-present smile revealed the pride she had in her wonderful family. Mike Pensak, z”l, carried on the family’s Kosher deli and the memory of his goodness in this community will last for all time. Atty. Liz Bartolai, z”l left us much too soon, but was a proud parent to her children who became Bar and Bat Mitzvah on our Bima and was always available to help with our school programs. Harold Rosenn, z”l. How to sum up in a few words Harold’s life, his influence on Temple Israel and our community, his tireless work for his clients, his generosity, his stories? Let’s just say he’s keeping the angels very busy up there. And Dick Burnat, z”l, devoted to his beloved Adria whose long-term illness became his only concern, was a regular in shul on Shabbat mornings.

     As we anticipate our Centennial Anniversary of our congregation on Saturday, September 17th, we know that these and so many other names will be in our hearts as we recall their service and dedication to our congregational family. Temple Israel has been a proud part of the Wyoming Valley, and we have been part of the growth and stability of both the Jewish and general community.

     Looking back on one hundred years of Jewish history at Temple Israel we may marvel at the fact that in the 1920’s no one had bad knees. Outside, a dozen and a half steps up to the Sanctuary doors, and once inside the restrooms are halfway down the stairs toward the Vestry. Stairs to the balcony and choir loft, stairs up to the Bima, and even more steps to get to the Ark! With all of the medical advances we’ve made since then, I wonder why so few of us can handle all those steps these days!

     I wonder what it was like at a Shabbat morning service back then. There were undoubtedly lots of people attending, and probably wearing their Shabbat best. Women were not on the Bima and probably were not for many years. But families did sit together since there was never a Mechitza (divider) at Temple Israel. The choir sang in the choir loft above the Bima. I wish we had recordings of those services. Cantor Abraham has found some music from the early years, and we hope to share some on the morning of our Centennial celebration at services on September 17.

     I do not know what Siddur (prayer book) was used then. The black Silverman Sabbath and Festival prayer book dates from the late 1940’s, although there was a United Synagogue Machzor developed by 1927. Our Silverman prayer books were replaced by the Sim Shalom which was available by 1985. Within the last twenty some years we adopted the Siddur Chadash (The New Siddur) which was produced by Conservative rabbis but was published by Media Judaica and not through the official Conservative Movement. It has extensive transliteration, and its English translation adopted an egalitarian approach to God. It is as if the publisher anticipated today’s concern about the pronouns people would like used. So, God is never referred to as “He” in our current siddur.

     But Media Judaica has closed its doors, so these prayer books are no longer available. As we move forward into our next 100 years, we may consider adopting the newest United Synagogue siddur, Lev Shalem, which some of us are already familiar with when we purchased them as our Machzor for the High Holidays before Covid. We look forward to using this new Machzor in our sanctuary this Rosh Hashanah.

     So, congratulations to our extended Temple Israel family for our first 100 years, and we’re hoping for a wonderful future that will continue to follow the byword of our Conservative Movement: “Tradition and Change.” Mazal Tov!