facebook

temple building websitesmall

 

Temple Emanu-El is a Reform Synagogue whose members reside throughout Union County and beyond. Affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism, Temple Emanu-El was founded in 1950 and currently serves more than 1,100 member families.

The story of Temple Emanu-El is best told in its context of colonial Westfield, New Jersey. A scenic, classic American town founded in 1794, Westfield was home to only a handful of Jews beginning around the First World War. By 1950, a group of 43 families of disparate religious backgrounds came together, resolved to create a Jewish identity. At a time when Jews could not purchase land in much of Westfield, and residents circulated petitions against the building of a synagogue, these founders persevered. They created a community that flourished in size and influence, while broadening the town’s understanding and vision of itself.

The founding families came from Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform backgrounds, with varying attachments to each. Assisted by our first Rabbi, they devised an interpretation of Reform Judaism uniquely their own: an organic Jewish community with integrated religious, cultural, social and philanthropic efforts. Traditions of Judaism were retained, including required kippot on the bimah, extensive Hebrew worship, and customary observances. For more than 60 years, Jews of all backgrounds and beliefs have felt welcome in Temple Emanu-El.  

Timeline

A brief history of Temple Emanu-El

1950

68 local Jewish families invited to discuss starting a reform Temple in Westfield

Groundbreaking

Temple Groundbreaking, 43 benefactors, Rabbi Ezra Spicehandler (1951)

1951

1953

Doors Open

Doors open to Temple on Broad Street – comprises made to accomodate liberal-traditional spectrum. Temple Emanu-El has approximately 150 members. 

Youth Group and Rabbi Jack Stern

Rabbi Jack Stern hired, a brilliant and beloved spiritual leader (1955-1962). 1955 also marked the formation of the first youth group.

1955

1959

New Religious School Wing

Small Religious School wing added to accomodate 400 students.

Mastering Prayers

First Cantor hired, Don Decker (1960 – 1986)

1960

1962

Period of Transformation

Period of transformation as congregants struggled with commitment to Judaism vs a Rabbinic father figure (1962-1966).

Second Expansion

Second expansion of the building after 4 years of heated discussions – sanctuary, social hall, kitchen and Greifer Sacks.

1966

1966

Rabbi Kroloff

Rabbi Kroloff begins tenure and reunites the congregation after a period of religious divisiveness (1966-2002, emeritus – present). The Temple also grows to 400 members.

March

Westfield March for Soviet Jewry. 

1970