Establishing A Reform Movement in Daytona
Early in February 1950, at the home of Mr. & Mrs. Leo Rose, a small group met with the purpose of establishing a Reform Movement in the greater Daytona Beach area. It was the feeling of those present that the appeal of Reform Judaism would open avenues of spiritual fulfillment and create enthusiasm for the establishment of a Reform Temple. At this meeting were Mr. & Mrs. Samuel Bubis, Mr. & Mrs. Samuel Dobrow, Mr. & Mrs. Sam Doliner, Mr. & Mrs. Sydney Gluckman, Mr. & Mrs. Edmund Goldberg, Mr. & Mrs. Louis Ossinsky, Sr., Mr. & Mrs. Leo Rose, Mrs. & Mrs. Irving Sacks, Mr. & Mrs. Nathaniel Schlossberg, Dr. & Mrs. Morris Seltzer and Mr. & Mrs. William Sirkin.
Rabbi Sydney Lefkowitz of Jacksonville, Florida, who was of great help during the first formative months, enlisted the aid of the Union of American Hebrew Congregaations. A small portable Ark and Torah were loaned by Temple Ahavath Chesed of Jacksonville and on February 24, 1950 the first Sabbath eve service was conducted at the Princess Issena Hotel with Sydney Gluckman officiating. When these facilities became inadequate, services were held in the auditorium of the News-Journal building with the men of the congregation leading services. The first congregational meeting was held on March 9, 1950 with approximately 50 prospective members present. The name Temple Beth-El was selected for the new congregation and the first slate of officers was elected.
A Synagogue Is Born
On May 25, 1950 following services a Board of Trustees was elected and a Charter and By-Laws drawn up by Louis Ossinsky, Sr. was presented to the group for signature and adoption. The Charter was held open for signatures as many wished to be “charter members”. Arrangements were made to have Rabbi Emeritus Israel Kaplan of Jacksonville conduct services on alternate Fridays during the winter months. Visiting Rabbis and lay leaders conducted the balance of services. A building fund was initiated and prayer books and hymnals were provided by the Union. The first Torah that belonged to Temple Beth-El was made available by the Union. This was a Torah of great significance as it was one that had been rescued from the Nazi holocaust. A small portable Ark was built and used for many years to house this Torah.
The Sisterhood Is Established
Temple Beth-El Sisterhood was formed in the summer of 1950 and immediately assumed financial responsibility for the Religious School; a commitment they have maintained throughout the years . The Religious School met first at the Y.M.C.A. with an enrollment of approximately 20 children. As the school grew the Tourist Church offered their facilities.
The first congregational Seder was held at Seabreeze Manor on April 2, 1950 with Rabbi Sydney Lefkowitz officiating and 120 in attendance. Temple has continued the tradition of Temple Seders, providing a family get together for congregants and a welcoming holiday Jewish “home” for tourists and visitors who find themselves alone for the observance of the holiday.
The first High Holy Day services were held at the Peninsula Club on September 12, 1950 with Rabbi Eugene Borowitz, assigned to us by the Union, officiating. During these early months a volunteer choir with many wonderful musicians assisting through the years.
In May of 1951 the congregation was able to purchase the First Presbyterian Church building at 5thStreet and Wild Olive. Soon after, Rabbi Bernard Perelmuter was selected as the first permanent Rabbi and on Friday September 7, 1951 delivered his first sermon. Under his guidance, the Temple continued to grow and prosper. The formal dedication of the Temple building took place on Friday evening, March 15, 1952. The Brotherhood was organized in 1953 during Rabbi Perelmuter’s tenure, which ended with his resignation in 1954. In August of 1954 Dr. J. Marshall Taxay become our second Rabbi, a position he held until 1960. During that time our membership reached one hundred families.
In 1955 our first President, Dr. Morris B. Seltzer, retired and was elected the first Honorary President. The Temple Library was organized in 1956 and grew as space permitted. Membership grew to one hundred and thirty.
The 10th anniversary of the Temple was celebrated in 1960 with a gala dinner at the Ellinor Village Country Club with one hundred and forty members in attendance and Rabbi Lefkowitz rejoining us for the occasion. Rabbi Taxay resigned in 1960 and the men of the congregation again led services until the hiring of Rabbi Norman Diamond in 1961. As our Temple grew, so did our Religious school and a new building was dedicated on February 5, 1961. In 1965 we attained membership of over 200 members and a religious school enrollment of one hundred and twenty. The mortgage on the Temple was burned in a celebration on November 26, 1966; much credit was given to the Sisterhood for their financial contribution and Brotherhood for their energy in maintenance and improvements.
Rabbi Diamond resigned in 1975 and became the first Rabbi Emeritus. With his resignation, Rabbi Barry Altman and his wife Malka joined the Temple and remained with us until their retirement in 2014. In 1982 Temple Beth-El moved into it current, large, location on North Nova Road which now includes a wonderful school building, housing our pre-k through primary school and gym as well as the Temple facility with its beautiful sanctuary, social hall, office, gift shop, kitchen and lobby.
In 2010 Temple Beth-El celebrated 60 years in a gala party at the Temple and in early 2013 our TBE School celebrated 30 years with many parents and former parents and students in attendance.