This is Temple Israel, Chanukah Episode, December 1953
It is December 13, 1953. Temple Israel has just installed a new Senior Rabbi, Roland B. Gittelsohn, and the Temple Israel Brotherhood, which has sponsored radio broadcasts for more than thirty years “on behalf of human relations,” has added a television program, “This is Temple Israel,” to “keep pace with the times” in a new medium. Designed to acquaint a broad audience with Jewish teachings and practices, today’s episode, the third, focuses on the history and rituals of Chanukah, with Rabbi Gittelsohn telling the story of the Maccabees’ battle for religious freedom, their reconsecration of the Second Temple, and the legend of the tiny flask of oil that lasts eight days. He also discusses the holiday’s modern message—that minorities have the right to resist conformism and the power to defeat formidable oppressors through faith and courage.
More than a week ago, on December 5, the Sisterhood held the first Chanukah Mothers and Daughters Religious Service and Luncheon, which was also the first Temple Israel service ever led entirely by women. As part of that Saturday morning service, nine young girls performed a Chanukah ceremony in which they each represented one candle “light” and explicated its meaning: truth, mercy, holiness, justice, love, Torah, patience, God, and courage. Pleased, Rabbi Gittelsohn invited them to repeat their presentation on the television show. The episode concludes with “a candle lighting ceremony in our temple… such as you might have witnessed in almost any Jewish home around the world.” The prayers, and other holiday songs, including Mi Y’malel, Al Hanissim, Haneiros Halalu, and Rock of Ages, are sung by the Temple Israel Quartet, led by Temple Israel Music Director Herbert Fromm.
As the Sisterhood reported to the Board of Trustees on December 20th, the show was “a thrilling experience for the children, and many viewers…called to say that they were impressed with the beauty of that ceremony, and with the entire program presented by our rabbi.”
This, and more than 400 other audio recordings of services, sermons, and events from 1934-1979, have recently been digitized by the Temple Israel Archives as part of a Recordings at Risk grant project sponsored by the Council on Library and Information Resources. When the project is complete, free streaming access to these recordings will be available.