Temple ShalomTo Embrace, Promote, and Teach Jewish Life and Values
Affiliated with Union for Reform Judaism
23190 Utica Avenue
Post Office Box 494675
Port Charlotte, Florida 33949-4675
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Temple Shalom ... a History1961 – 1986
In the beginning a small handful of Jewish families found each other and attended High Holy Day Services at Temple Beth El in Fort Myers, Florida. From this small handful came a spark, an idea, ---- why not form our own congregation in Port Charlotte and invite all our Jewish brethren in the greater Charlotte County area to join us? And thus was born The Port Charlotte Jewish Community Group. The first informal meetings were held in the home of Allen and Judy Levin until General Development Corporation made the Scout House at Olean and Conway Boulevards available to us.
These were the formative months, and on December 20, 1961, the dream became a reality. Articles of Incorporation were adopted for The Port Charlotte Jewish Community Group, Inc. and shortly thereafter, we received our charter from the State of Florida. Within a month regular Friday Night Services were being held at the home of Allen and Judy Levin, and on January 31, 1962, the facilities of the choir room of the First Presbyterian Church were made available for our religious services and meetings.
Our first year of life saw many mitzvahs -- first Friday Night Services on January 19, 1962; first Constitution and By-Laws adopted on January 31, 1962; first Purim Party in March, 1962, at the Port Charlotte Community Center; the donation of 4.75 acres of land for a temple by General Development Corporation in May, 1962; the first High Holy Day services ever held in Charlotte County on September 28, 1962; and the formation of Sisterhood before the end of the year.
During the first eleven years of our existence, the small congregation continued to grow and prosper under the leadership of Abraham Golden, Judith and Allen Levin, and Joseph Brown. On January 16, 1963, we received the deed to the land on which our Temple now stands. A Twenty-Five Thousand Dollar Bond issue was approved with $9,000.00 worth being issued to pay for the construction of the original building which was designed in the shape of the symbol of our heritage -- the Star of David. A small mortgage from a local bank was also obtained as the result of President Abe Golden's pledging his own personal assets as collateral for same, and on May 12, 1963, ground was broken for the building with Rabbi Joseph Liberles of Temple Beth EI of Fort Myers officiating and Reverend Henry Stout, Pastor of The First Presbyterian Church giving the benediction. The original building designed by Ray Griffith, Architect, was built by local contractors led by George Wright, working at their cost with little, if any, profit. On September 6, 1963, the first Sabbath Services were conducted in our new building and on September 27, 1963, the first High Holy Days Services were conducted. On January 19, 1964, The Port Charlotte Jewish Center was officially dedicated.
During the next ten years the congregation continued to grow. Under the leadership of our first three presidents and their fellow officers and Board of Directors, The Port Charlotte Jewish Center was improved, expanded, and during "Josh" Brown's term as president, the mortgage was paid off and shortly thereafter, the bonds were redeemed. During these years we saw the formation of the Men's Club and the beginning of a Hebrew School, under the tutelage of Mitchell Goldsmith and Jules Taylor, which was primarily to train young people for the Bar and Bat Mitzvah. During the first eleven years, the burden of nurturing our congregation rested on the efforts of our founders: Allen and Judy Levin, Sam and Minnie Feirman, Henry and Rose Gralitzer, Jack and Estelle Tackler and Ruth Feirman. Let us also acknowledge the efforts, dedication, and vision of our early officers: Abraham Golden, Judith Levin, Allen Levin, Joseph Brown, Lillian Siegal, Ruth Feirman, Leo Korb, Milton Weinberger, Edward Whitfield, Alfred Levy, Ann Schumann, Jules Taylor and Arie Van Amerigan. January 1st, 1973 -- the Shalom was born and for the next ten years its editor, Harry Friedman, faithfully saw to it that our monthly bulletin was distributed among our members.
The next several years saw a great many firsts -- we were the first official Jewish presence in Charlotte County. In 1974 we held our, first Youth Group Service. We recognized the first of our Temple youth to be confirmed (the actual confirmation having taken place at Temple Beth El in Cape Coral), and we had our first Bat Mitzvah, that of Joy Tehrani on November 29, 1974. 1975 started with our receiving our charter from the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), and heralded the arrival of our first full-time religious leader, Cantor Simcha Ben Gail. On May 23, 1975, David Levin became the first Bar Mitzvah and in October, the Children's Hebrew School was started. During these years, we saw the start of the Sisterhood's Judaica Gift Shop and the installation of our first Memorial Tablet. On March 11, 1976 the congregation officially adopted the name 'Temple Shalom'.
In July, 1977, under the leadership of President Art Santman, the addition to the original building of a storage and conference room/class room (and what was later to become the Rabbi's office) was completed. In 1978 the construction of our new Sanctuary was started and completed, and in October, 1978, we held our first High Holy Day Services in the new Sanctuary with Rabbi Lewis E. Bogage, Regional Director Southeast Council, UAHC, officiating.
In July, 1979, Cantor Samuel Kligfeld became our new religious leader and under his direction, a formal Hebrew and Sunday school was started with the able assistance of Bob Burke. A library was established in the Temple with the many donations of books and paintings. As our membership continued to grow, so did our physical needs and by 1982 the kitchen was expanded with the financial efforts of the Sisterhood. The entry-way was redesigned and rebuilt, and a beautiful new Ark and Bima were completed. Spiritually we continued to make strides with the first B'Nai Mitzvah Class in March, 1983, the completion and installation of the Tree of Life, and the formation of a Sunday Night Study Group that was to lead to the Chavurah and Saturday Morning Sabbath Services under the dedicated leadership of Judy Levin.
1984 saw more firsts in Temple Shalom with the installation of the first woman president, a Blood Bank was instituted for Temple members, and a monthly Family Night Service was begun to allow those members with young children to take an active part in the religious side of Temple life.
On July 1, 1986 Rabbi Lewis E. Bogage came to Temple Shalom to assume pulpit responsibilities and continue to make Judaism the important and fulfilling part of our lives.
Written by Bernard Miller