History of Temple Hillel
It’s not unusual that the most significant and longest lasting institutions emerge from the vision of a single person – a driving force with persistence and inspiration. In the case of Temple Hillel, we owe our existence to the foresight of Herbert M. Shumer. It was the fall of 1954 and a group of 50 houses were recently completed as the forerunner of two thousand homes planned as the North Woodmere community. Herb moved into one of these houses He was consumed with the idea that this new community, as well as the surrounding established community, had a need for a place of worship for the upcoming High Holy Days. Searching the area in June 1955 he finally located suitable space to accommodate his dream. It was an unused garage in the rear of Hoeffner’s Gulf Station on Rosedale Road. Prepared to negotiate for the right price for the building for a few weeks, he sat with its owner, Tony Hoeffner. Imagine his delight when Tony offered the building without charge for religious services that year.
It was now time for Herb to speak with neighbors to spread the word and gauge interest. Jack Lampert offered his home for a meeting. Bob Fields, Harold Schoenholtz, Leo Jablon, Tom Stecklow, Murray Schofffel and several others attended this first meeting. They decided to sponsor the services. They printed leaflets, dropped them in mailboxes – the response was overwhelming! At Hy Schecter’s home a month later, it was decided to incorporate and elect officers. Herb Shumer was the Temple’s first President. The name “Valley Stream South Jewish Center” was approved. Obviously, the name didn’t last, nor did North Woodmere Jewish Center, and finally the name “Temple Hillel” was adopted.
Rabbi Aaron Gelman and Cantor Sol Kalish were engaged to conduct services. Work began to transform the garage into a place of worship. As the High Holy Days approached the committee grew to forty folks, who hosed down the walls, draped them, installed lights, arranged chairs, built a bema, set up and covered the Ark. Finally the Torahs were brought in. No membership drive, but word of mouth swelled the first services to over 250 worshipers. A huge success! For the next year the garage became the temporary home for all congregational activities.
In that year Rita Breslau went to work to create a dynamic and effective Sisterhood. After organizational meetings in her home she was ready for the first organizational meeting to be held in the “garage.” Sisterhood’s first fund-raising event was a card party held in the Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall in Valley Stream. Mildred Schoffel and Marty Statsinger set up a Sunday and Nursery school in the Hewlett Primary School. With Rabbi Gelman as Principal, instructors were hired to meet the first class of children.
Recognizing the importance of locating a permanent site for the synagogue, Sam Davis, Ted Fishman and Len Haskell undertook the investigation of available locations. After arranging the purchase of our present site from the builder-owner of North Woodmere Knolls for $20,000 we next had to rehab the barn-like structure to accommodate the congregation. Finally, groundbreaking ceremonies were held on July 22, 1956, at Temple Hillel’s current location at 1000 Rosedale Road in North Woodmere. The new building was ready for the High Holy Days of 1956 and we hired Rabbi Aaron Pearl as spiritual leader. It had room for 450 people to attend services. The walls were unfinished but everyone was grateful to be in their own home, at last! After the High Holy Days, the building was partitioned into various rooms. The Hebrew School and Sunday School began. Religious Services moved over from the garage to the new building.
To accommodate our growing membership, a portion of land was surfaced and a huge tent erected adjacent to the Temple Building. Over 700 people attended these services conducted by Rabbi Pearl. Dues for 1957 were $50 per family, including two tickets to the High Holy Days services. The Men’s Club was formed in that year, with Sol Lew as President. In February 1959, the Men’s Club held their first function, a Sweetheart Dinner Dance. Over 200 couples attended the event at the Park Inn Hotel in Valley Stream. After nine months in existence the Men’s Club had swelled to 390 members.
In 1958, for the High Holy Day Services, a larger tent was set up on the Temple site. This time it was big enough to house 1000 people. Membership reached 400 families. Mr. Ben Kestenbaum was engaged as Cantor. On April 12, 1959, groundbreaking services were held for the current Temple Hillel building. The Building Fund, $485 per family, payable over 2 years, was initiated to pay for the construction. The initial temporary building had to be demolished and for the next year the Temple was relocated to its first house, at 950 Park Lane. This year’s tent was erected on the corner of Park Lane and Flanders Drive. The house on Park Lane became a beehive of activity. Sabbath Services were conducted in the living and dining room areas of the house, which were filled to capacity. Rabbi Hack and his family were warmly welcomed to the community on Selichot Night, 1959.
“Shehecheyanu – that we have lived to see the day.” From garage, to hut, to house, to a permanent building in five years, Herb Shumer’s dream was fulfilled beyond anyone’s expectations. On September 17, 1960, with joy and solemnity, the dedication of Temple Hillel was celebrated in conjunction with Selichot Services. The first High Holy Day Services in the new building was something very special. 1250 people were accommodated within the Temple. The Yom Kippur Dance that year attracted 1300 people. Before the first stage of the building was finished, the Temple had already outgrown the physical facilities and plans had to be formulated for adding a second floor to the building. Temple families purchased building bonds as an investment in the future of the Temple and $90,000 was raise within 60 days. Construction began on the second floor extension.
The Temple flourished and membership exceeded the most optimistic projections. But a Temple, no matter how gloriously decorated, is only brick and mortar. Even with a dedicated and motivated congregation, inspiring members and achieving its noble vision required a very special Rabbi to be the catalyst to ignite the mixture and be its guiding light. Daniel Chanes, President of Temple Hillel commissioned a Rabbi search committee that culminated in the installation of Rabbi Morris Friedman (of blessed memory) as Spiritual Leader on Selichot Night, September 14, 1963.
rabbifriedmanFor thirty-three years, under the spiritual direction of Rabbi Friedman and his wife Addi, Temple Hillel distinguished itself as a “fortress of Jewish faith and as a citadel of Torah Learning” according to The New York Board of Rabbis. The Board continued, in referring to Rabbi Friedman on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Temple; “We are well aware of the decisive role that your alert and dedicated leadership has played in nurturing and guiding your Congregation to its present spiritual heights. We are indeed proud that you serve the New York Board of Rabbis as its distinguished Vice President (and later President) and are grateful to Temple Hillel for its support of our programs.”
In a letter to Rabbi Friedman on January 12, 1995, Dr. Bernard Lander, President of Touro College said, “Thirty-two years in the life of a Rabbi who serves as friend, spiritual guide, and mentor in a distinguished manner such as your own, world Jewry must compliment you, honor you, and pay homage to all that you have done.
“I know of your personal interest in the welfare of member families. I am aware of your joy in the successes of your Congregants and their children. I know how you cry at the unhappy moments that inevitably occur in the lives of member families. Because of your interest, one thousand families, members of your Congregation, have found a great Rabbi, one who is respected in the greater New York community, as well as in the State of Israel. “
Temple Hillel thrived during the tenure of Rabbi Friedman. The Rabbi brought inspiration to the congregation, to the larger community and to the greater NY metropolitan area. After occupying positions as Treasurer and Vice President of the New York Board of Rabbis he was elected President for its 1984 term. Sunday, March 4th was an exciting day. Installation ceremonies were held at the Sheraton Center in NYC. Many dignitaries attended, led by Governor Mario Cuomo, who delivered the keynote address. Back at the Temple that night, over 500 congregants and friends jointed together to congratulate Rabbi Friedman for attaining this most prestigious position.
It truly was our Golden Age. On October 26, 1984 the Temple made history! President Ronald Reagan visited us. This was the first time since President George Washington visited the Touro Synagogue in Newport, R.I. that a US President was received by an American Synagogue. Those in attendance will never forget the day nor will we forget Cantor Ritter’s rendition of Hatikvah and the Star Spangled Banner. Upon completion of a program in the Main Sanctuary, Rabbi and Mrs. Friedman hosted a luncheon at their home. President Reagan enjoyed the Rebbitzen’s cooking.
The long and distinguished career of Rabbi Friedman ended with his retirement in 1995. The Journal Dinner Dance honored Rabbi and Addi Friedman for their 33 years of dedicated service to the Temple. It was the most well-attended dinner dance in the Temple’s history. It was held at the Woodbury Jewish Center in order to accommodate everyone who wanted to attend. As a token of the Temple’s gratitude and love for Rabbi Friedman, he was granted the title of Rabbi Emeritus.
Rabbi Steven Graber and his family moved to our community on the day of the great blackout of August, 2003. Unable to complete the move in darkness, with no food or bedding, the Graber’s were forlorn. Congregants emerged from their houses, welcomed the Graber’s, and made sure they were fed and comfortable. The Rabbi’s spirits were lifted by the warmth and caring of the congregants. The lights came on. The brightness of the Temple has never shone brighter – illuminating its members, the community, Jews everywhere and the State of Israel. During the Rabbi’s tenure we donated our 44th ambulance to Israel since the founding of Temple Hillel. With his inspiration we look forward to many more years of greatness for Temple Hillel.
Temple Hillel offers you a multigenerational, active congregation affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism located in Valley Stream, NY
Who We Are…
It is with great pleasure that the Rabbi, Officers and Members of the Board of Trustees of Temple Hillel welcome you.
Temple Hillel has a long and proud history of involvement in not only the spiritual life of its members and all of Judaism — but the secular life as well.
For over five decades Temple Hillel has been a source of spirituality and a warm second home to all. It has always been its aim to serve the Jewish Community by attending to the religious, cultural and social needs of its children, youth, singles and adult friends. It is a shining star in the galaxy of traditional conservative congregations in the Metropolitan New York area. It enjoys an outstanding reputation for leadership in enhancing Jewish life in America and contributing to the strength of Israel. Do you know many Temples that were visited by a sitting President of the United States (Ronald Reagan in 1980), or whose Rabbi was the President of the New York Board of Rabbis (Rabbi Morris Friedman, 1975), or whose members donated 27 ambulances to the State of Israel?
The Temple is a generational congregation. Numerous young people who have become B’Nai Mitzvah at Temple Hillel, in later years, returned for their marriage, settled in the community and are now members of the Temple.
Our daily Minyan is a source of comfort at times of need for those who long for a special support system; both spiritual and social, morning and evening, without interruption for 54 years. The following best describes Temple Hillel’s philosophy:
A synagogue should be the place where man refines his set of values and discovers his proper place in the scheme of the universe. Everything deteriorates in life: the violin changes its tone; the razor loses its edge; the spark plug gathers carbon, the battery weakens, the watch runs down. In our spiritual life, we also need a regular tuning, a repeated sharpening and a constant winding.
Thus, the worth of a synagogue is determined not by the size of its membership (although we’re thriving), the dimensions of its budget (financially sound), or the design of its architecture (glorious) — but by its influence on the spiritual life of its adherents.
Executive Board - 2015/16
President - Kenneth Fink
Executive Vice President - Norman Pernick
Vice Presidents - Gordon Kaplan, Victor Spetalnick, Muriel Tannenbaum
Treasurer - Stuart Kotler
Financial Secretary - Murray Blum
Recording Secretary - Gayl
The mission of Temple Hillel is to fulfill the Jewish religious, educational, social and service needs of the Valley Stream/Five Towns Jewish Community who identify with Conservative Judaism – and to take its place in the area as a leading and
Family service at 5:30 pm, Full Service Catered Dinner at 6:30 pm $36 per adult, $18 per child You may bring your own bottle of Kosher wine for your table. RSVP...
Congregation Anshei Shalom Requests the Honor of Your Presence At Our THIRTY-NINTH ANNIVERSARY DINNER Saturday Night, February 10th 2018 @ 8:00pm Temple Hillel,...