To mark the congregation’s 70th anniversary, 15 members of Temple Sinai traveled to the Pittsburgh City-County Building for a special proclamation from Councilman Dan Gilman.
“Now, therefore be it resolved, that the Council of the City of Pittsburgh does hereby applaud Rabbis Jamie Gibson and Karen Gorban, cantor Laura Berman, executive director Deborah Fidel, the rest of Temple Sinai’s staff, the board of directors and the entire congregation for their commitment to the ideals of Reform Judaism, social justice and lifelong learning and for 70 years of success,” read Gilman.
“And be it further resolved,” he continued, “that the Council of the City of Pittsburgh does hereby declare April 19, 2016 to be Temple Sinai 70th Anniversary Day in the city of Pittsburgh.”
Among the 15 attendees were clergy, staff and members of the congregation.
“It’s an extraordinary day in both the life of the congregation and the city of Pittsburgh,” said Gibson. “Seventy years ago the Jewish community organized in Squirrel Hill to create a progressive Jewish voice not only for our community, but for the greater community at large.”
Including the proclamation, several events will mark Temple Sinai’s 70th anniversary. A special Shabbat service and oneg is planned for September, and a scholar-in-residence weekend with Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman is called for December. Hoffman is an American Reform rabbi and professor of liturgy at Hebrew Union College and is known for his scholarship and work with interfaith dialogue.
Though reaching up in age, Sinai is still spry, said Amy Kellman. “I am the daughter of a founder and wife of a past president, and this reaffirms that it is a living congregation. It’s 70 years old, but it’s very young and ongoing.”
Along with Kellman, other descendants of founders traveled downtown for Gilman’s proclamation.
Bob Katzen was in first grade when his parents became official founders 70 years ago. At that time, the congregation had not yet moved into the Worthington Mansion on Forbes Avenue.
“I remember attending Hebrew school at the Church of the Redeemer,” said Katzen. “They were nice neighbors for us. They gave us space for services and religious school when we needed it.”
Dick Diamondstone had similar memories.
“My parents were one of the founding members,” he said. “I used to go to religious school at a local church nearby.”
Several attendees remarked that Gilman’s proclamation was a fantastic way to celebrate the congregation’s anniversary.
“It was lovely and fun to be able to do something so positive and important,” said Phyllis Weinkle, daughter of founding members.
“Just to be noticed, recognized and honored by the city council, I thought it was very special and very nice to have Dan Gilman read it; he’s a member of the temple,” said Ellen Katzen, who along with her husband, Bob, are honorary chairs of Sinai at 70.
The proclamation for Temple Sinai’s anniversary came about through Gilman’s efforts, said Barry Rudel, Temple Sinai’s development director.
“It was an extremely nice gesture on behalf of Councilman Gilman and the council of the city of Pittsburgh to recognize Temple Sinai’s contribution to the city for 70 years,” said Bob Katzen.
After Gilman read the proclamation, Gibson remarked on the honor.
“Our accomplishments are not our own,” he said. “We stand on the shoulders of giants, and some of our own giants are here. I am so honored to share this moment with those bonei Yisrael (builders of Israel). We are so honored to be part of the city of Pittsburgh and are honored to be with you today.”
“It’s a good proclamation,” maintained Councilman Corey O’Connor. “It shows that Temple Sinai has been a pillar of the community. So many kids, families, have gone there. I’ve been there a number of times.”
Berman praised the proclamation for its unifying ability.
“I’m always thinking about how people come together to share voices, hopes and celebrations,” said Berman. “This proclamation is a wonderful opportunity to share their voices together with the city council.”
Adam Reinherz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.