Qabbalat Shabbat: Friday, 6:00 p.m. Torah Study: Saturday, 9:00-11:00 a.m. Weekday Minyan: 6:15 p.m.

How Awesome Is This Place!

“Mah Norah Ha-Makom Ha-zeh!”

How Awesome Is This Place!

The title comes from the Biblical passage in Genesis when the patriarch, Jacob, awakes from his dream of a ladder ascending to heaven. He recognizes the sacred nature of that location and says, “Mah Norah Ha-Makom Ha-zeh!” – or “How Awesome Is This Place!” With this statement, we want to lift up how amazing and wonderful Temple Israel is for all of us by showcasing our members whose lives have experienced just how awesome this place is.

Ann Abrams, Curator & Librarian
Alisa Finkel, Barbara Cevallos, & Linda Okun, Exhibit Committee
Michael Sandman, Photography Consultant
Harriet Greenfield & Pam Goodman, Museum Committee
Rabbi Elaine Zecher, Senior Rabbi

Hover over each photo to read more

Bryna, Mike, Becca, and Max Davis

“When asked, Mah Norah Ha-Makom Ha-zeh, we, the Davis family, have two answers:

  1. The first, is that Temple Israel is a “big tent” that provides its congregants (young and old alike) the tools, encouragement and environment to be social advocates. From the earliest days in the religious school, students are taught that a mitzvah is not just a “good deed” but also an obligation. This congregation led the fight for marriage equality across the Commonwealth, and we were empowered to make calls to drive that landmark legislation. The Davis family is gratified to have been involved with the temple’s efforts to successfully pass three laws to make the world a better place, and like Temple Israel, we are far from done.
  2. The second is the inclusive way Temple Israel embraces everyone. The congregation welcomes visitors and members of every ethnicity, previous religious affiliation, age,gender and sexual orientation. This congregation joyously and openly celebrates all its congregants’ important life events.”

Judy Berkowitz, Bob Martin, and Tracey Martin

“Bob and I visited local synagogues in anticipation of the Consecration of our only child, Tracey. Among our many criteria, we looked for evidence of social inclusiveness. While walking the halls of Temple Israel on a Sunday morning, we peered into classrooms filled with active, happy children, and warm, welcoming rabbis and faculty members. We liked what we saw. That was almost 30 years ago. Yet those same impressive scenes still fill the classrooms of Temple Israel.Under this roof, we find community: Tracey celebrated her Consecration, Bat Mitzvah and Confirmation here, enjoyed Sukkah decorating, RYFTI (Reform Youth Federation of Temple Israel) excursions and Monday Night School. Our family shared the loss of family members, participates in many Shabbat and holiday services, and enjoys TILLI (Temple Israel Lifelong Learning Initiative). Rabbis generously provide personal and practical guidance while raising our consciousness. Our Jewish spirituality, ethereal and accessible, is consistently powered by the rumbling engine of social justice. All this makes Temple Israel an Awesome Place!”

Brenda Morris, Isaac Morris, Eve Alpern, and Jaden Morris

“In 2012, we were looking for a Religious School for our kindergarten-aged twins. A client urged us to stop obsessing about which synagogue to join, saying, “Stop being ridiculous. Temple Israel is the perfect place for you!” She was right. As a queer interfaith couple raising kids in the city, we felt comfortable the first year we joined. It’s now been five years of attending Religious School, Shabbat services, holiday events, community activism, committee work–and now the Intro to Judaism class–and Temple Israel has brought us closer together as a couple and as a family. Not only have the staff and clergy gotten us excited about religion and spirituality, they have also dedicated themselves to making sure our family feels at home here. Temple Israel is “awesome” in all the ways it has embraced us and challenged itself to become an ever-increasingly inclusive community, particularly supporting congregants with disabilities.”

Diana and Isaak Shklyarov

“I lived as a refusenik (Jews living in the former Soviet Union who were refused permission to emigrate) for seven years. Gorbachev finally permitted my husband and me to leave Russia in 1987. I dreamed of being part of a Jewish community and Temple Israel made me feel very welcome. Here was a place where I could become involved, not merely attend services. Upon learning that I had been a librarian in Russia, the rabbis introduced me to Ann Abrams. The temple library became my library and Ann my best friend. The Temple gave a lot of attention to Russian Jewry: Programs like potluck dinners with Russian-American families broadened our circle. A temple family gave us furniture, another suggested that my husband take classes at a local college, and the temple helped with tuition. My husband got an internship, then a job. We all contribute in our own ways to the Temple Israel family. If someone speaking Russian called, Rabbi Mehlman asked for my help. When Cantor Einhorn learned my husband and I hadn’t had a Jewish wedding in Russia, the clergy gathered several refusenik couples and we had a chuppah! Through attending services, I learned prayers and songs, things that had been denied me in Russia. Imagine my pride in reciting the Torah blessings when my grandson became a Bar Mitzvah!”

Anne Rogal and Family

“My children are our family’s 5th generation at Temple Israel. First to join was Grampy (great-grandfather Harry Rogal), who came to the US from Russia as a boy in the late 1800’s, and became an early member. He memorialized his wife (Anne Rogal, my namesake) in one of the stained glass plaques just outside the sanctuary overlooking the Temple garden. My Dad’s mother, Viola Goldstein, joined in the early 40’s as did many of her cousins (one of them was “a friend of Josh Liebman,” as they called the famous and beloved rabbi.) You can see my dad towering over his classmates in the 1943 Confirmation class picture hanging in the Education wing hallway. He and my mother were married at Temple Israel; Rabbi Liebman was to have officiated, but he passed away just before their wedding. My parents moved to Pennsylvania, but returned to Boston in time for my Confirmation at Temple Israel, and later, my brother Keith’s Bar Mitzvah celebration. Besides being a touchstone of moral responsibility and political action, the Temple and its clergy provided us with ritual, structure, and spiritual and emotional support as the years passed, and we moved through my wedding, my brother Kim’s untimely death, my kids’ B’nei Mitzvah and my parents’ deaths. This 2008 photo shows Mom and Dad,(Bruce & Phyllis Rogal), me, and my children Kim and Abigail Winiker.”

Priscilla Golding and Barbara Burg

“Temple Israel has always been, and continues to be, a blessing in our lives! Temple Israel was the conversational icebreaker when we first met at the August 1999 birthday party of a mutual friend. Our shared enthusiasm for TI’s history, vibrancy, and commitment to social justice led to our first “date”, the ever wondrous Temple Israel S’lichot service. Five years later, on that very same date, we were married in the sanctuary. Dayenu! For all of this, and so much more, Mah Norah Ha-Makom Ha-zeh!”

Sandman Family

“From our uncle Milton Linden, past president of Temple Israel, to our grandson Benjamin, we are a fourth generation Temple Israel family. From our daughters’ B’not Mitzvah and weddings, to Rabbi Zecher’s healing service helping my parents through a medical crisis, to Rabbi Friedman calling from New York and Rabbi Mehlman calling from Israel when my brother died, Temple Israel has been woven into the fabric of our lives. From the planning days with Helen Cohen for the preschool, to my own grandson being a student there, the open arms of this vibrant and loving community has been a beacon of light in our family’s journey as we embrace both our Jewish history and our Jewish future.”

Berk Family

“We had lived in London, England for thirteen years. When we moved to Brookline in the autumn of 2016, we sought a Jewish community where our children would be happy and where we would feel comfortable expressing our Judaism in a variety of ways: Ted grew up Sephardic, Naomi grew up in a Conservative synagogue in the South. We landed at Temple Israel and have been so pleased. Preparations for our daughter’s Bat Mitzvah celebration are currently underway. We cannot wait to continue to explore new ways to become apart of the vibrant life at TI!”

Linda, Henry and Michelle Okun

“It all began with Michelle. Michelle would enter first grade in the fall. Living in Brookline, this meant a neighborhood school within walking distance, and friendships based on classmates and neighbors. Something was lacking: the family needed a temple community, where childhood education was prized as well. We were encouraged to attend a Sunday morning gathering for young children at Temple Israel. That did it: not only was there someone singing and parading around the ark with a troop of children, each child holding a plush Torah, but the leader was a rabbi –and –the rabbi was a woman! This was Rabbi Ruth Alpers. Michelle was won over, and we, her parents, immediately felt the same. And neither of us had ever encountered (or even considered the possibility of) a woman as a rabbi before. That was just the start. Michelle thrived at Temple Israel. Michelle went on to become a Bat Mitzvah. She attended Monday Night School, was active in RYFTI, went to Eisner Camp as a camper and counselor, served as a TI student teacher, completed the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Boston’s Teen Ade Program, (learning behavior modification skills for K-7 students with special needs in classroom and summer camp settings), and traveled twice to Israel, the first time as part of a NFTY Birthright Program and the second time, again with Birthright, before turning 26. “

Dayl Cohen

“After my parents died when I was in my late forties, I realized it was finally time to connect to Judaism as an adult. I had never joined a synagogue, and I went back to my parents’ home in Atlanta to celebrate holidays. In Temple Israel I saw a diverse, multifaceted congregation where I could feel comfortable as a single woman. I felt welcomed from the beginning. I found my niche to serve the congregation by helping to keep the building functioning and beautiful. In the 17+ years I have been part of Temple Israel, I have studied Torah, traveled, and prayed with temple members who have become cherished friends.”

Rachel Daniels

The Riverway Project warmly welcomed me early in 2011 when I moved back to Boston after living in California less than a year and while I was going through a divorce. That fall I ticket-matched with Temple Israel for the High Holy Days, and while praying and singing during the Purple Service, I knew I had found my campy/NEFTY (New England Federation of Temple Youth) community. I happily and proudly became a Temple Israel member in 2012. Through Riverway Soul Food Friday and Shabbat meals with Riverway friends in apartments, Mining for Meaning, the Riverway Leadership Team, Qabbalat Shabbat Services, Saturday morning Torah Study, High Holy Days, being on a Rabbinic Search Committee or two, and the Leadership Council, I’ve met incredible people and built meaningful relationships. I even introduced a Riverway friend to a non-Riverway friend and danced at their wedding in July 2015. It’s an understatement to say Temple Israel has had a profound impact on my life over the last 5 years and counting…”

Ben Poor, with his Torah Study buddies, Naomi and Oliver

“After graduating college and moving across the country, I found myself channeling some of my anxiety into another challenge: figuring out my relationship to social justice through Judaism. None of the definitions of tikkun olam that I encountered up to that point in my life had felt especially Jewish –the most meaningful ones sounded more like the Democratic Party platform. One August morning, a random email alerted me that the week’s Torah portion contained the famous “justice, justice you shall pursue” imposition. I decided to go to a synagogue and see if a rabbi would unpack this oft-quoted but rarely contextualized passage. That Saturday, I found myself at Temple Israel’s Torah Study. Jews of all ages dove into the ancient passage together, grappling with both its original context and its applicability to today. The room’s engagement with the text was deeply serious, yet also deeply irreverent. I left that morning appreciative not just of the bagels at the Qiddush, but ALSO of the rich conversation with both the past and each other. Returning the next week, I found our conversation looping back around to the justice implications of the new text as well. With so much in flux in my life at the time, I was grateful to Temple Israel for providing me with a new Jewish community, a new Jewish practice, and a meaningful, authentically Jewish definition of tikkun olam.”

Patricia Squire

“‘Pat, you just aren’t trying!’ Standing at her full three-foot height, Esther, hands on hips, evaluated the situation. We were building a block tower and it was as high as I could reach. Esther marched over to the sink, picked up the small stool, brought it to where we were playing, and made it clear that if I stood on the stool, we could build a higher tower.Among the many lessons I’ve learned as an “inter-generational volunteer”on Thursdays in the Red Room of Temple Israel’s amazing Frances Jacobson Early Childhood Center (FJECC),that is the one that has stayed with me. What I also learned was basic Hebrew, all the relevant holidays including birthday celebrations, and most important, the necessary qualities of Judaism: kindness to others, being supportive, cooperation (Thursdays were “P” days for “Pairs” and “Pat”)–so many of the qualities we value most.Like the song from “The Sound of Music,” the FJECC children, ranging in age from two to five, start at the very beginning, and by the time they graduate, have learned the true meaning of being Jewish. When I think about Lifelong Learning classes at Temple Israel, none have been more valuable than Thursdays in the Red Room!”

Suzanne, Marty, Jacob, and Felix Flax

“What drew us to Temple Israel was our desire to be part of a temple community that could embrace each member of our family, children and adults. Our son, Jacob, has autism. Temple Israel provided him with the support he needed to become a Bar Mitzvah at the temple while he was living in a residential placement in the Berkshires. The Tent has given our younger son, Felix, a place to feel accepted and loved. Marty enjoys the temple softball team and singing in the choir at the annual Karol Music Program. And during my cancer treatment, Rabbi Morrison provided me with needed spiritual support. We are grateful for our Temple Israel friends and community: Each one of us considers this an Awesome Place!”

Liz, Tim, Calvin, and Ivy Lyster

“Calvin and I had our worst sleep ever, on the bima at the second grade shul-in. The kids had the run of TI all night—hence the lack of sleep—but in the morning Calvin felt like he owned the place. The year we lived abroad, we joined Rabbi Zecher’s family trip to Israel. Getting to know a smaller group within our large community meant that the High Holy Days, when we returned, were a true homecoming. Ivy’s deep connection is in her relationships with the clergy—just please don’t let on that she isn’t Rabbi Suzie’s ONLY best friend. Tim has always felt completely welcomed here, but was surprised to feel particularly comforted by traditional Jewish ritual when his parents died, despite not being Jewish himself. How awesome is this place? It’s pretty awesome.”

David Haidacher-Bassong and Friedhelm Glauner

“David and I, Friedhelm, are cyber congregants from Mannheim, Germany. We found Temple Israel on ReformJudaism.org when we started to observe Shabbat in April 2014. Since then, we’ve been attending almost every Qabbalat Shabbat, the High Holy Days, and most of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah services via live stream. Over the past three years, sermons offered by the clergy, lectures by guests, the congregational read, and projects presented by congregants such as the Green Team have had a great and lasting impact on our daily lives, both spiritually and practically. For example, I started baking our own challah a couple of years ago, and we just switched to green energy. We experience Temple Israel as a welcoming community based on respect with open arms, minds, and hearts. Although we would love to be involved in congregational life more directly, we consider Temple Israel our spiritual home. Thank you all!”

Fujita Family

“We joined Temple Israel because the boys wanted to go to Sunday school like their older cousins, and it was a good time to find a community, since our family was going through a separation. The three of us grew up Jewishly at TI, the boys in the arms of Rabbi Bernard Mehlman, Rabbi Ronne Friedman and Cantor Roy Einhorn. Somehow, when the children were called up onto the bimah for a story, Craig found his way onto a rabbi’s lap. The temple was a place where we all felt safe and loved. Ross and Craig were active participants in the youth group, and read Torah and Haftarah on the Holy Days, and I started to attend Torah study each Saturday morning. I learned that Reform Judaism asked the same question I had been asking for many years…how do we create a just world? Temple Israel led me to rabbinical school and the boys to become activists in their own way. Temple Israel has continued to be our Jewish home.”

Lipson Family

“When we moved to Boston as a married couple twelve years ago, we were eager to build a community in our new city. Relatives who belonged to Temple Israel invited us to join them for Rosh Hashanah services: from the moment we walked into the light-filled sanctuary, we felt at ease. Over a decade and three children later, this community lies at the heart of our family’s life. From the joyous baby naming ceremonies and discovery-filled FJECC preschool years, to cozy afternoons in the Children’s Library, and Sunday mornings among beloved friends and teachers at the Religious School, our children have blossomed within the walls of this building. It brings us such joy to see how safe they feel being themselves when they are here, in a place where so many grown-ups have their best interests at heart. For them—and for us—Temple Israel is truly a home away from home.”

Hannah Stern Pait

“When I am at school and having a bad day and I see people from Temple Israel, it cheers me up because I know that they care about me, they care about others, they are fun to be around, and have something positive to say.

Temple Israel has good values, like kindness, and caring, and creativity, and transmits these values to everyone, including teens. This is what makes the people from Temple Israel so special.

Temple Israel has taught me about so many different issues and causes like LBGTQ+ rights, the environment, caring for the homeless, and taking care of each other. And it does this in a fun way, through arts, trips, games, and fun Jewish rituals.

The people, values and education are what make Temple Israel a great place.”

Andy, Meredith, Gavi, Isa, and Mateo Lesser-Gonzalez

“To say that I was a lost youth is an understatement. By the time I left home for college, I was struggling. I wanted to be observant, but my Catholicism wasn’t compatible with being gay. I looked into a number of religions, and realized Judaism was the best fit. One day in 1995, I left my dorm at Wheelock College and walked into the first temple I found—Temple Israel. I asked to meet with a rabbi, and soon met with Rabbi Zecher. She told me that this was a big decision to throw my lot in with you folks, and asked if I was sure. I wasn’t. But, I read, I studied, I took Judaism classes here. Gradually, I felt a little less lost, and started to feel like I belonged. During this process, I met my wife, Andy. She had also gone to Wheelock, and occasionally attended services here. When we had children and needed more of a community to support us in raising them, we came to Temple Israel. Today two decades later, I am still here. This community has given my family and me so much: In sickness and health, for richer and poorer, through death that has pained our hearts, as well as the joys of baby namings and one Bat Mitzvah celebration (with two to go), Temple Israel has supported us. Mah Norah Ha-Makom Ha-zeh! How Awesome Is This Place! It gives me great pride and joy to know my children are a part of this community, and long after I’m gone, they can return again and again, because they have somewhere they belong. This is home. I no longer feel lost and I know there is no need to feel lost ever again.”

Saul Kurlat

“My wife, Gitta, and I had been members of Temple Israel since 2003. It was simply part of the very busy and rewarding life we shared. It was not until I suffered my greatest loss that I truly discovered Temple Israel’s central role in my life. Gitta, my wife of 59 years, passed away on April 26, 2014. The comfort, caring, and sympathy I found at Temple Israel was immediate, and continues to this day. I was not prepared for the sense of community and belonging that I discovered, but it was what sustained me through that most difficult time. Now I recognize Temple Israel as an integral part of who I am, and where I truly belong.”

Joan Hinrichs

“I enjoy Temple Israel because I find the community so accepting, lively, and stimulating. I enjoy Shabbat and Cantor Einhorn’s singing, and join in whenever possible. The library is one of my favorite places. I’m an avid reader, and eagerly participate in activities where I can learn, grow, and socialize. The book club is at the top of my list: there are group discussions of selected readings, plus opportunities for schmoozing with fellow members, which is always fun. I also enjoy participating in TILLI. I converted from Roman Catholicism to Judaism –quite a long process. I had to do a lot of reading about Jewish history, which was eye-opening. So much of it was new to me.I am proud to have become a member of the Jewish people!”

Nora, Will, Amber & Sawyer Renthal

“Our family found a home in Temple Israel when we moved to Boston two years ago to complete our medical training. We joined the temple with our two young children, Amber and Sawyer, in the middle of our conversion process. We were welcomed by Rabbi Jeremy Morrison, and drawn to the large and vibrant TI community, reminiscent of Temple Emanu-El, Dallas, where we first found a Jewish home. Rabbi Morrison guided our family on our path toward Judaism and, along with Rabbis Friedman and Jacobson, officiated at our family’s conversion on a crisp winter morning in 2014–our first exposure to a New England winter-and the year Boston set a record with 108.6 inches of snow! That day set a record for the Renthals as well, simultaneously commemorating the family we had become,and celebrating our Jewish future, holding the promise of life-long learning and community. We treasure our time at the temple: Amber and Sawyer love Religious School, and we initiated a parent study group–Chavurah–as part of the Center for Adult Jewish Learning. We hope that this is just the beginning of many great years ahead!”

Barbara, Carlos, Isabella, and Sylvia Elena Cevallos

“We searched for a long time for a congregation that felt right to us –an interfaith, ethnically mixed family. We wanted our kids to see families like ours in our congregation, and to feel comfortable being “halvsies.” We found what we were looking for in Temple Israel–a place that is warm and welcoming and accepting, with no pressure to be a certain way or do certain things. We have made very close family friends here: like-minded people who are loving and supportive, and who really get us. In such a big place, we have found our family.”

Kathleen Collins

“I felt frustrated and hopped from place to place, trying to find a community of faith. By luck, I landed at a Chavurah, a Jewish community, through an email on a Deaf Listserv, and I kept returning there for Shabbat. The more I learned, the more questions I asked, a lot of difficult Jewish questions, and I wanted answers! Jewish friends suggested I attend Rosh Hashanah services at Temple Israel since ASL (American Sign Language) interpreters would be present. I started going to Temple Israel, and Shabbat at TI filled a void within me, as well as a need for community that I couldn’t find elsewhere. I converted to Judaism in 2005; I was so lucky to have found TI while I was in college at Northeastern. Following college graduation, entering the real world was a shock, to be honest. It was a relief that TI was a constant in my life, through good and not so good times.I asked Ann Abrams, the TI librarian, if I could volunteer in the library. Working there helped me gain more confidence in myself. People at TI have always believed in me and encouraged me to strive to reach my potential.”

Jennifer, Ken, Louie, and, Isaiah Goldsmith

“We joined Temple Israel nearly twenty years ago and could never have dreamed what our family would become, and how Temple Israel would have a distinct meaning for each of us. From Teeny Tiny Tot Shabbat, to Me’ah, to the early days of Ohel Tzedek, we each found our place in a different community. Through Religious School, B’nei Mitzvah, Monday Night School, RYFTI, being classroom aides, working as a videographer and office assistant, TI has become home to the boys completely separate from their parents. After one shul-in, they described back-passages of the building that we adults will surely never discover. We’ve known both simchot and loss within these walls, and been comforted and embraced by our clergy and community of dear friends here. At TI,we have roots far deeper than we could have imagined so many years ago, and avenues yet to be explored.”

Monaco Family

“After living in the Albany NY area for over 30 years,where we were actively involved in Congregation Beth Emeth, we relocated to Massachusetts to be closer to our three grown children. Although initially we didn’t think we would seek out a new congregation, after a short time we found that we missed our connection to the Jewish community. From our very first visit to Temple Israel, clergy, staff, and members were so welcoming and inviting, we knew we had made the right decision: Shabbat and holiday services are creative and engaging, the 50s and 60s group has been a wonderful way to meet new people, Book Group and Library Committee for Beth, and Building and Grounds Committee for Fred, have each been a perfect fit. Long before we became members, two of our children were active in the Riverway Project. They continue to participate, so it has been a treat to follow in their footsteps instead of the other way around! Most TI folks know us as “the people from Marshfield,” and we are still explaining why it’s not too far to travel to Temple Israel. The simple reason is, TI is a very special place:spiritually and intellectually stimulating, socially conscious, friendly and engaging. It’s great to have a new temple family while we enjoy living near our own family.”

Ann Abrams, Curator & Librarian
Alisa Finkel, Barbara Cevallos, & Linda Okun, Exhibit Committee
Michael Sandman, Photography Consultant
Harriet Greenfield & Pam Goodman, Museum Committee
Rabbi Elaine Zecher, Senior Rabbi