Who We Are – Temple Sinai

Who We Are – Temple Sinai

Temple Sinai´s original location at 294 Lyndale Ave, Tonawanda

On October 24, 1952, Temple Sinai held its first Friday evening service at the Kenilworth Church on Lyndale Avenue in Tonawanda. Rabbi Harold Weisberg, a director of the Reconstructionist Foundation in New York, was the guest speaker. There was an overflow crowd at this inaugural Friday evening service “along Reconstructionist lines… similar to the Liberal-Conservative movement… The novel feature of having members of the congregation lead some of the prayers was very well received.” Temple Sinai bought the building when the church moved to its new quarters, but the two congregations shared it for some months. In fact, the sanctuary had to be switched around so that it could be used for Temple Sinai committee meetings on Tuesday evenings and services on Friday evenings, and for the church on Sundays until January, 1953. The Sinai members became so proficient at this, that it took only 15 minutes to convert the church to a synagogue. The Buffalo Evening News of November 12, 1952, wrote “On Friday evenings, just before the Jewish services, Reuben Goldstein brings a Torah, borrowed from the Pine Street synagogue… the hymnals are put away and the Reconstructionist prayer books… are brought out.”

Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan speaking at Rabbi Gaynor´s installation 1954

As soon as the building was available on Saturdays and Sundays, Hebrew school classes were begun and Shabbat morning services were instituted. The fledgling congregation did not have a rabbi of its own until Rabbi Nathan Gaynor was appointed in July, 1954, so services were conducted by members of the religious committee and occasional guest speakers, including Rabbis Ira Eisenstein and Eugene Kohn, and a visiting rabbi for the High Holidays. A budget prepared in May, 1953, amounts to $3,975 for six months, including interest and amortization on the $8,500 mortgage. There is a footnote to the budget that states, “In the event of being able to find a Rabbi, I am certain that our budget would rise to at least $15,000 per year.”

1952 was an exciting year for Temple Sinai, and we can all be justifiably proud of the growth and position in the community that Temple Sinai has achieved in these fifty years.

Written by Esther Bates, of blessed memory, for Temple Sinai´s 50th anniversary.