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About Sinai Temple

Sinai Temple is a welcoming and inclusive Reform Congregation where our members pursue a continuing journey of Jewish growth. We are guided by the history and traditions of the Jewish people as we encounter the challenges of the modern world. We encourage participation in prayer, life-long Jewish learning, and social justice within a joyful, creative, and compassionate community.

A Distinctive History

A History of Sinai Temple

      Sinai Temple was started in 1931 by newlyweds Samuel and Helen Simons who decided that Springfield, Massachusetts needed an alternative to the Orthodox and Conservative synagogues in the area. While Sam had grown up in Springfield without a Reform presence, Helen had grown up in a large Reform congregation in West Hartford and they both wanted to bring that kind of religious opportunity to Springfield.

     Services began in individual homes before a house was purchased on Sumner Avenue and remodeled to serve as home for the growing congregation. During those early years Rabbis David Eichhorn, Judah Cohn, and Hershel Levin led the congregation. With the arrival of Rabbi Herman Eliot Snyder in 1947, a building drive made possible the purchase of land in what was then the outskirts of Springfield.  Ground was broken for our beloved building, 1100 Dickinson Street, on August 15, 1949 and it was completed in 1950.  Other Springfield Jewish institutions followed Sinai to the outskirts and are now the familiar landmarks of the Jewish Community Center and campus, Jewish Geriatric Services, and Temple Beth El.   During Rabbi Snyder's years at Sinai, 1947 to 1970, the congregation grew 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 retired and 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 became our Cantor, bringing her musical talents, her great warmth, and her devotion to the children and adults of the community.  She nurtured B'nai Mitzvah students, created an Adult Choir and a Junior Choir to enhance our worship, and created countless special musical services and concerts that engaged and involved congregants of all ages.

In 1988, Rabbi Mark Dov Shapiro became our Rabbi  bringing warmth, enthusiasm, and a heartfelt embrace of Judaism, tzedekah, Torah, and social action.  Under his leadership, the interior of our Temple building was renovated in the late 1990's and a second endowment fund was created.  Rabbi Shapiro worked closely with our educators enriching our Religious School experience and was a leader in expanding our social action programming.  Rabbi Shapiro developed and nurtured our weekly Shabbat morning Torah Study sessions into the core aspect of the Sinai life that it is today.

Our congregation continues to rely on strong, thoughtful and very active lay leadership in the form of Temple officers, Board members and volunteers who have always helped sustain the Temple and congregation.

     In 2006, we marked our 75th anniversary with the restoration of our Torah scrolls, a Scholar in Residence weekend, an adult Hebrew reading program involving over seventy-five learners, congregational development of our Sinai Mission Statement and two social action projects which raised funds to build a playground for a Springfield public school, and to provide swimming lessons for needy Springfield children.  Every child in our Religious School participated in creating a tile mosaic for the crossword installation piece entitled “The Alphabet of our Jewish Lives" that hangs in our Oneg Shabbat Room.   The quilt that hangs in the auditorium was created by our Religious School students in honor of our 60th anniversary in 1991.

     In 2008, Cantor Mekler left us after 29 years of music, spiritual leadership, and connection and Cantor Martin Levson joined us.  He brought his guitar and a wealth of musical energy and engagement.  Under his direction and with his passion, the junior choir became Shir Fun and flourished.  He and his wife Sheri, who taught in our Religious School, brought musical theatre to Sinai, staging Music Man, Oliver, Fiddler and of Children Eden. 

     In June 2016, the congregation honored Rabbi Shapiro upon his retirement and Rabbi Howard Kosovske became our interim Rabbi to guide us in the transition from Rabbi Shapiro’s longtime leadership to that of a new settled Rabbi.  On July 1, 2018 we took the next step into our future as Rabbi Jeremy Master became our settled rabbi and celebrated a rousing Erev Shabbat service on July 6.   Our Sinai family is very happy to welcome the Master family, Rabbi Master, wife Rabbi Alana Wasserman and daughters Peri and Dara.  

     Our Religious School has evolved over time and in September 2017 moved to a new model of an extended Sunday morning session which includes both religious and Hebrew instruction. This replaced the prior two day a week model of Sunday morning religious instruction and weekday Hebrew instruction. Dasha Baker, M.A., Jewish Education and M.A, Jewish Studies, became our director of Religious School in September 2017.

     Our congregation, like many religious congregations outside of large urban areas, experienced a significant drop in membership beginning in the early 2000’s.  After years of financial study and much congregational and Board soul searching, we made the painful decision that the financial health of Sinai required a return to a single clergy model.  As a result, Cantor Levson left us on June 30, 2018 and Cantor Wayne Krieger joined us on July 1, 2018.  Cantor Krieger’s position is that of part time Cantorial specialist to provide musical leadership to supplement Rabbi Master’s considerable musical talents.

    Since 2019, we have moved to yet another phase for Sinai. Rabbi Alana Wasserman and experienced teacher Kate Monge will direct the Temple’s religious school for 2020-2021. In addition, we will be joined again by our Cantor-in-Residence, Bruce Ruben for High Holiday and several Shabbat services.

    Of course, everything this year is affected by the COVID 19 virus and decisions about how to encourage congregational engagement without the possibility of joining together in person. The Temple created a COVID 19 Task Force to consider issues of how to reopen the Temple and conduct all services under pandemic conditions

Revised 2020

Mon, July 15 2024 9 Tammuz 5784