This history of our Temple is one of achievement and progress. It is a peaceful history, it does not relate of the wars and battles, chaos and confusion, politics and petty strife usually found in history books.
What happened in Springfield ninety years ago has happened in every part of the world and from time immemorial. A small group of men, vitally interested in their religion, organized to fill their needs. The reasons were never written down, but they certainly included the same ones which are important to us today. Some of these were the promotion of religious and social advancement, education of the children and mutual assistance of its members.
So, on August 25, 1866 Samuel Altschul, MD. Levy, Michael Kaufman, W. Frankel, G. Bruckman, A. Aaron, Charles Altschul, H. Meyer and Jacob Meyer, the only Jewish residents of Springfield met and organized the Jewish Congregation of Ohev Zedukah. They selected as their first officers, Samuel Altschul as President, Michael Kaufman as Vice-President, and W. Frankel as Secretary and Treasurer. In addition to these men there were several peddlers who worked in and around the vicinity and attended the services made possible by these men. A house of worship has always been one of the foremost needs of our people and these pioneers were no different. Their first Synagogue was located in the rooms in the Folrath Building and it may be of some interest to know that the annual rental was twenty dollars.
During the next year after its organization Solomon Lessner, Jacob Wolff and Louis Stern joined its ranks and in 1871 M. M. Kaufman, Samuel Waldman, and Israel Wolfson were added. In 1875 these men were joined by Louis Weixelbaum, J. Schoenthal and F.K. Syman. Then in 1883 Solomon Berger and Max Levy were admitted to membership.
The names of these men and their children appear continuously throughout old records and only in very recent years have their names begun to disappear from the roster of those active in the affairs of the Springfield Jewish Community.
It is interesting to note that the Congregation preceded the organization of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations by a number of years. In 1873 the Congregation was invited to join and on August 24th of that year was accepted and admitted to membership. Solomon Lessner received the honor of being the first delegate of Ohev Zedukah to the convention of the Union.
The officers of the Congregation perceived the necessity of a Jewish Burial Grounds and on April 18, 1875, purchased lots in Ferncliff Cemetery. From time to time, additional ground has been purchased surrounding the original lots, and this place remains to this date the burial grounds of our local people.
During the early days, the spiritual guidance of the Congregation was in the hands of various Rabbis whose terms of service were from one to three years. They not only conducted the services, but also taught the religious school as well. It was not until much later that a Sunday School with a faculty other than the Rabbi was organized. Their salaries ranged from three to five hundred dollars a year. At times the Congregation could not even pay this sum and when necessary to do without a Rabbi, various members of the Congregation performed these services.
The next move of the Congregation was in the late 1880's to the Johnston Building on West Main St. and here they remained until 1901. Even in those days plans for building a Temple were always in their minds. A meeting was held in 1888 to discuss the purchase of a lot on North Market Street at a cost of $500.00. At this meeting a total of $315.00 was pledged. But, here that part of the story ends as no further action was taken.
In 1901 the Congregation moved back to the Union Block on Fountain Avenue where they remained until 1918 when the present Temple was completed. This period was the most formative in the local Jewish Community and it was only through the services of pioneering individuals whose names have already been mentioned who gave so freely of their time, money and effort that the Congregation was kept intact.
In 1909 another effort to start a Temple was launched. through the efforts of Theodore J. Levy, a Hebrew Union College Student Rabbi who was serving the Congregation at the time, a campaign was launched and a total of $2150.00 was pledged, but apparently this was another abortive attempt since no further reference was found in the records.
In 1914 the affairs of the Congregation were turned over to the then younger members. Mr. A.
Joe Levy was elected President and Justin A. Altschul, Secretary and Treasurer. During the first
year of their effort a number of prominent Rabbis were brought to Springfield. Among them, Dr.
Morgenstern, Dr. Englander, Rabbi Gross, Rabbi Melgiener and others. Later they secured the
services of Mr. Samuel Gup, a student at Hebrew Union College, and the latter conducted
services until his graduation in 1918. From time to time, when it was not possible to obtain the
services of a full time Rabbi, students were able to assist our community. These young men
would come either every week or every two weeks to conduct services and the Sunday School.
The first Sunday School with a faculty of more than one was organized in 1916 by Samuel Schadel. The two volunteer teachers were Mrs. Joe Levy and Mrs. Henry Salzer. In the next year the faculty had been increased to six.
In 1916 Rabbi Phillipson of Cincinnati and members of the Board presented plans for the new Temple. More than $10,000.00 was pledged within a few minutes. Subscription notes were in ten- year installments practically all of which were paid as they became due. The building committee consisted of Gus Salzer, Chairman, Henry L. Levy, Secretary, A. Joe Levy, Treasurer and Sam Jaffa, Vice-Chairman.
Plans for the new Temple were drawn by Robert Gotwald, Architect, and in May of 1917 the building contract was let with William Poole as contractor. On September 19, 1917 the cornerstone was laid with Rabbi David Lefkowitz of Dayton, who also served our Congregation, officiating.
The Temple was completed and Rabbi Morgenstern dedicated the structure on September 5, 1918. It is interesting to note that the cost when complete was in excess of $42,000. not including many of the furnishings. Also this whole project was carried out with a total membership of only forty-four families. Here, almost 40 years later and with a Congregation almost four times as great, the Temple is still serving the needs of the Community. Great credit must be given to those far-seeing men who laid out the original plans.
The first permanent Rabbi for the new Temple was selected in 1919 - Rabbi Sidney Tedesche of Wichita, Kansas, at a salary of $3000. per year.
During the next ten years the Congregation grew to a total of sixty-three families and from an original debt on the new Temple of over $21,000. the outstanding debt had been reduced to less than $13,000. Many improvements had been made during the same period at additional costs.
In 1924 the name of the Temple was changed to the Fountain Avenue Temple and then during the 1930's to the present name. The name of the Congregation has not, however, been changed since its original selection.
No great advances were encountered during the 1930's probably due to the trying times of the Great Depression. The fact that the Congregation held together so well speaks loudly for the perseverance and fortitude of its members and officers during these trying times.
World War II saw many of the younger members of the Congregation entering the service of our Country including Rabbi Jacob Polish who joined the US Navy Chaplain Corps.
In 1943 the last Temple debt was paid, and a ceremony was held at which Gus Salzer, Chairman of the original building committee, burned the mortgage.
In 1947 the needs of the Sunday School became so great that the building to the north of the Temple was purchased and utilized for additional classrooms. However, the tremendous increase of population in our Jewish Community made the building next door inadequate for Sunday School facilities. Considerable time and effort were spent by several committees in the ensuing years to replace the present building.
Over a year ago Morton Goldstein, David Krauss, Elick Zitsman, Fred Leventhal and Harry Leventhal purchased the site of our present Educational Building and sold it to the South Fountain Avenue Temple Congregation. The money they received from the sale of the land was donated in their respective names to the Building Fund. Too, the remaining 136 members of the Congregation made their generous financial contribution to the Building Fund and made this magnificent Educational Building possible.
Of further interest and for the records, we note with joy the growth of our Sunday School ... from an enrollment of 63 in 1953 to 90 students in 1956.
The Sisterhood of the Temple has grown into an organization of one hundred twenty active members.
Ninety years ago, in August of 1866, this Temple was organized as the Jewish Congregation of Ohev Zedukah. They had minimum requirements of ten members. This has since grown to our present membership of one hundred forty-one.
Recent events concerning this Jewish Educational Building reveal an exciting past calendar. On May 18, 1955, a dinner meeting at the Shawnee Hotel inaugurating a campaign of fund-raising for the purpose of increasing the facilities of Sunday School and providing a Community Hall. Such a campaign was conducted and on April IS, 1956 ground breaking services were led by Rabbi Norman H. Diamond. On July I, 1956 a cornerstone dedication was held on the present site and witnessed by a large attendance of members and their children. Finally, as of November 18, 1956, this formal dedication was prepared with the great majority of members, many friends, and several dignitaries, including Governor Frank Lausche, participating.
The cost of this building was approximately $125,000. About $85,000.00 was subscribed to from our members and the entire monies came from memorials, ways and means activities, and from the Temple Sisterhood organization. A mortgage of $40,000.00 was authorized and assumed.
Just ten years ago ... November 19, 1956, we gathered here under this very roof and dedicated our Jewish Educational Building. And then in May 1959 another fulfillment of great pride took place. The dedication of a new sanctuary "Temple Sholom."
In this generation, we have accomplished much to be proud of but the history of our achievements goes back to our founding fathers in 1866, one hundred years ago. On August 25, 1866, Samuel Altschul, MD. Levy, Michael Kaufman, W. Frankel, G. Bruckman, A. Aaron, Charles A. Altschul, H. Meyer and Jacob Meyer which was then the entire roster of the Jewish Community, organized the Jewish Congregation of Ohev Zedukah. There was no significant growth in the membership for only eleven new members were admitted in the following seventeen years.
The first services were held in the old Folrath Building and then in 1871, they moved to a room on the corner of Union and Fountain where they remained until 1880. From 1880 to 1901, services were conducted in the Johnston Building on West Main Street. During those early days, services were being conducted by full time and part time Rabbis who also taught Sunday school. After many disappointments to raise funds for a new building, a successful drive got underway in 1916 and on
September 5, 1918, the new Temple was dedicated. Known as the South Fountain Avenue Temple, this remained the center of all religious and social activities for the Jewish community until this present Jewish Educational Building was dedicated and shortly after the new Temple adjoining was completed. It was at this time that the name was changed to "Temple Sholom."
Much of our history was made by individuals who worked diligently to keep the spark of Judaism alive in Springfield. Constantly they were being confronted with financial problems and more than history cares to record the congregation was on the brink of dissolving. However, the desire and the need overcame these problems and each generation was blessed with outstanding religious and unselfish civic leaders.
Today we pay homage and respect to those who had the foresight, the charity and the religious spirit to create a gift of dignity and faith for us to measure up to. We celebrate not the mortar or the brick, but the heritage that great and renowned Rabbis and Jewish men and women of all walks of life have endowed us. May we be worthy of it when future generations will judge us.
When Temple Sholom celebrated the dedication of the Jewish Educational Building in 1956 a book was published which included the history of our Temple from its founding in 1866 by the only nine Jewish residents of Springfield.
The membership at the time of the dedication of the Educational Building had grown to 141 families. The children's subscription page contained 95 names, and the Temple organizations included a Sisterhood, a youth group, and a tween teen group. There were 90 students in the religious school, and the Sisterhood membership was one hundred twenty-nine.
In 1966 Temple Sholom's next major event celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding. The history of the Congregation was updated to include the building of the new sanctuary in 1959. Temple Sholom remained the center of all religious and social activities for the Jewish Community. To accommodate the small conservative Congregation, Beth-el, two rooms in the Educational Building were remodeled where their services could be conducted.
The past twenty five years have brought about many changes in the chronicle of Temple Sholom. Changes in the attitude of world, national, and local arenas regarding social, ecumenical and educational statuses have been reflected in the life of our Congregation, and in fact, in the entire reform movement.
The women in our Congregation are taking a more active part in both the religious and administrative areas. From increasing numbers of students preparing for BatMitzvah to the first woman president of our board of trustees, from participation in the reading of the Torah to conducting worship services, the women have assumed greater responsibilities. In 1990 the Sisterhood merged its assets, talents, and efforts with those of the Temple. Some former members of the Sisterhood have been appointed to the Temple Board of Directors.
Temple Sholom was a pioneer in the establishment of the Community Thanksgiving Service, which was started by the Temple and Covenant Presbyterian Church, and now includes St. Raphael Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church. Brotherhood services were conducted in our sanctuary, and our religious school rooms depicted the observance of our major holidays with members of the Congregation and our Rabbi on hand to answer the questions of our visitors.
We have seen changes in our worship service. The Sephardic pronunciation of Hebrew replaced the long familiar Ashkenazic. Our youth group presented creative services, including guitar renditions of liturgical music, from the steps of the BEMA, and we even had a guitarplaying Rabbi, who encourged the Congregants to join with him in the singing during the worship service. From time to time we had lay-choirs to provide the music for our services with or in place of our professional choir. The greatest change was in the replacement of the 35 year old "Union Prayer Book" with a more contemporary prayer book, "The Gates of Prayer".
During the past twenty-five years we sold our parsonage, as our Rabbis preferred to provide housing of their own choice. Also during this period, Temple Sholom became the sole Jewish house of worship in Springfield, as Beth-el Congregation ceased operation.