A Golden Jubilee for Local Synagogue
Temple Sinai ushered in a weekend of celebrations embarking on its 50th year.
The foundations of all buildings begin with cinder blocks and mortar. But the real bedrock is in the strength of its people.
Nowhere was that more concrete than this past weekend when Temple Sinai on New Albany Road kicked off its 50th anniversary.
Here, in a bedroom community of Philadelphia, tucked behind a grove of trees with a welcome American flag, a modest beige building has been the sanctuary for Jewish families since 1962.
The celebration began with a Shabbat dinner, which observant Jews hold on Friday nights, for 120 people. The feast honored the founding members—those original members who began the temple—followed by services.
Of the 90 founding families, planners of the event reached 40 people. Some of the 24 original members who came to Friday’s dinner traveled from as far away as Florida.
There are nine founding members who have remained active in the synagogue.
Member Stuart Beck, a culinary arts teacher, prepared smoked salmon, pear salad, chicken Marsala and desserts. Five grinning teenage boys acted as servers.
Listening to the founding members speak, as well as newer members, it is beyond question how the temple has dovetailed as a place where people of similar backgrounds can pray, socialize and study.
“Back in the late 1950s, Cinnaminson was experiencing an influx of new and young families,” said Phil Bogdonoff, one of the original members. “It was estimated that there were nearly 100 Jewish families in the area.”
After various committees were formed, according to Bogdonoff, membership secured a $300 bond—”...a tidy sum in those days”—and built the temple on two parcels of land.
“It was truly frustrating, exasperating...but a labor of love,” Bogdonoff reminisced.
Founding member Lois Goldberg moved to Cinnaminson when she was 24 and pregnant with her first child. Goldberg met other Jewish women through World Ort—the largest non-governmental Jewish educational and vocational training organization—and was contacted by a rabbi in Riverside about starting a synagogue in Cinnaminson.
“At first, we gathered in homes, in the basement of a bank, and finally we had to hold our first High Holiday services in the Palmyra Masonic Temple," before Temple Sinai was erected, Goldberg said.
Great-grandmother and founding member Vida Gaffin said it was important to her and her family that a Jewish presence remain alive in Cinnaminson.
“The synagogue has been a very positive experience for my three children." Gaffin said she has much admiration for Rabbi Steven Fineman—leading for 26 years and the sixth rabbi in the temple’s history—and she "feels very comfortable with him.”
Gatherers listened to co-chair Arlene Salkin espouse the importance of continuing time-honored customs for the Jewish youth.
“We wanted a place where we could raise Jewish children, who could have friends, not Facebook friends, but face-to-face friends,” Salkin said. “We have great wealth because we have long and lasting friendships.”
Celebrations continued on Saturday with a multi-generational Pirates of the Caribbean-themed auction, Texas Hold ‘em, and rum tasting for the adults. Kids enjoyed a treasure hunt, the movie Hook, and a popcorn bar.
The final day was festooned with a golden-bullion brunch, a cash for gold clinic and jazz music.
The temple is steeped in neighborhood outreach programs: flu shots, food pantry gatherings, and the current scarf and glove drive.
The congregation also collects cosmetics and grooming products for Providence House Domestic Violence Services.
A member for 20 years, co-president John Stevens said the small membership—less than 200—has enabled a friendly and relaxed atmosphere to prevail.
“Larger snyagogues are not as welcoming sometimes,” Stevens said.
Co-planner of the weekend festivities Stacey Blacker concurred. “This is a tight-knit group of people,” Blacker said, who owns Red, White and Brew liquor store in Mount Holly. “We are all very lucky.”