Ohef Sholom Temple and Temple Sinai join together

by | May 25, 2012 | Uncategorized

Two congregations will soon officially be one. On Sunday, June 3, Temple Sinai of Portsmouth and Ohef Sholom Temple of Norfolk will come together as one congregational family.

The day will begin with a ceremony at Temple Sinai, where Rabbi Arthur Steinberg will speak about the past and the door now opening into a new future. Rabbi Steinberg says he will emphasize that a congregation is the people who are its members, not the building it occupies.

Present and past presidents of Temple Sinai will then carry their two Torahs to a waiting vehicle for a special, police-escorted, procession to their new home. Rabbi Steinberg, along with Rabbi Rosalin Mandelberg of Ohef Sholom Temple, will accompany the Torahs, and will be followed by members of both congregations for the ride to Norfolk.

Cantor Wally Schachet-Briskin of Ohef Sholom Temple will be waiting, along with the choir and other members of Ohef Sholom, on thesteps of the Stockley Gardens entrance to welcome the procession. Michael Blachman and Rick Rivin, sons of founding membersof Temple Sinai, will carry the Torahs up the steps into Ohef Sholom Temple’s sanctuary and ceremonially pass them to three founding members, Zelma Rivin and Louis and Isabel Brenner, and members of Temple Sinai’s board of trustees. Cantor Wally Schachet-Briskin and the choir will lead the procession in song.

The Ohef Sholom Chapel will be rededicated and named the Sinai Chapel, and the celebration will conclude with a luncheon sponsored by Temple Sinai and Ohef Sholom Temple’s Sisterhood and Men’s Club.

Temple Sinai was founded in 1953 by nine Portsmouth members of Ohef Sholom Temple who thought their community could support a Reform temple. Religious services were held in the Women’s Club of Portsmouth, the Coca-Cola Bottling Works and the Suburban Country Club. Religious school was held at John Tyler Elementary School. Land on Hatton Point Drive was purchased in 1955, and the cornerstone was laid the following year. The goal of a 100-family membership was reached in 1996.

The years passed quickly, filled with the Oasis Soup Kitchen, HIV Dinner Program, Portsmouth Volunteers for the Homeless, resettlement of Russian Jews, interfaith activities, and adult education, including “A Taste of Judaism.” Tulip bulbs sold initially by Sisterhood helped beautify Portsmouth and were even sent to the White House. The main fundraiser–the annual themed auction–brought people from throughout Hampton Roads, drawn by the creative leadership of Ted Bonk and Rick Rivin.

Rabbi Steinberg became the rabbi in 1980 as temple life continued to revolve around Shabbat, High Holy Days, festivals and lifecycle events. In 1986, the religious schools of Temple Sinai and Gomley Chesed Synagogue joined forces to become the Portsmouth United Religious School under the direction of Kitty Wolf-Steinberg.

“We are delighted to welcome Temple Sinai into our Ohef Sholom Temple family,” says Rabbi Rosalin Mandelberg. “Rabbi Steinberg and Kitty Wolf, along with the leadership and membership of Temple Sinai, bring immeasurable experiences and gifts which we look forward to learning from and incorporating into Temple life. Their long history of dedication to and engagement in Jewish life will only strengthen and deepen our vital Reform Jewish community in Tidewater.”

With the welcoming of Temple Sinai into Ohef Sholom Temple, the story has come full circle, as Temple Sinai resides right where it began.