History

 

ShofarDanceIn 1924 it became apparent that there had emerged among Poughkeepsie Jewry three schools of religious thought - Orthodox, Conservative and Reform. This same trend was noticeable throughout most Jewish communities in the United States.

The need for a Conservative house of worship in Poughkeepsie became apparent to those individuals who had no spiritual home of their own. A band of 13 families including; H. Albert, B.T. Braw, I. Fleishman, H. Goldstein, Dr. M. Katz, D.C. Klein, J. Lass, J. Perlmutter, H. J. Rosen, Major R. Rosen, I. H. Spitz, and I. Tofel, felt they would be happier in their own congregation, rather than staying affiliated with the Reform Congregation, Vassar Temple. In 1925 and 1926, this group held Conservative services on the High Holy Days in a meeting hall offered by Mr. I. H. Spitz on the second floor of the Fallkill Building on the corner of Main and Washington streets. On weekends Rabbinical students provided for the spiritual needs of the community. During the period that followed, this small group became even more attached to the idea that their religious happiness could be satisfied only in their own shul. In October 1927 the opportunity arose for the purchase of the building that had housed the religious group called The Society of Friends, located at 110-112 Montgomery Street. The monies required to seal the transaction were advanced by I Fleishman, H. Goldstein, J.Perlmutter, H.J. Rosen and I.H. Spitz and they accepted in their own names an option to buy the property.

At a meeting held on October 9, 1927, with the 13 founders present, it was unanimously resolved to incorporate Temple Beth-El of Poughkeepsie, NY. These same parties signed the Certificate of Incorporation on October 31, 1927. On November 7, 1927, title to this realty passed from The Religious Society of Friends to the 13 founders. On the same day, these persons transferred all of their interests and rights to this property to the religious corporation designated as Temple Beth-El of Poughkeepsie NY. Major R.Rosen became the first elected President of the newly formed Temple Beth-El.   Almost a year later, the new synagogue building opened on Montgomery Street.

In 1930 a parcel of land on Dutchess Turnpike/Route 44 in Poughkeepsie was acquired for the Temple Beth-El Cemetery.

In 1935 Rabbi Haselkorn, the former Rabbi of Vassar Temple became the religious leader of Temple Beth-El, until 1942 when he became a chaplain in the armed forces. From 1942 - 1946 Rabbi Holtzer, became the next Rabbi. The first Cantor was Samuel Pressman who volunteered his services until his death in 1953.

Rabbi Erwin Zimet became the Rabbi of the congregation in 1946. His tenure lasted for 40 years. The congregation grew from 75 families to 350 families while worshiping on Montgomery Street. Rabbi Zimet and his wife Lilli were contributors to the expanding program offerings including starting a High Holiday choir and a junior choir. Lilli became principal of the Religious School with a range of programs for pre-school to high school seniors.
With the expanding membership the congregation needed a larger building. In 1959 the congregation moved to our present home on 118 South Grand Avenue. As the congregation grew from 350 families to 800 families so did their needs. Sidney Rabinowitz , a professional Cantor, was hired. In 1967 the congregation hired Cantor Joseph Wieselman. In 1990 Cantor Rena Shapiro joined Temple Beth-El as the first woman cantor. In 1987 the congregation hired Rabbi Stanley Schachter for a year, followed by Rabbi Charles Feinberg and Rabbi Jonathan Case.  In 2002 the Temple was awarded a STAR Synaplex grant. We became one of the first synagogues to embark on a three-year journey to engage our membership with creative Shabbat programs.

In August 2006 Rabbi Neal Joseph Loevinger became the spiritual leader of Temple Beth-El.  In September 2014 Rabbi Neal finished 8 years with us, and we are beginning a new chapter with Rabbi Daniel Victor.     Our vital congregation is continually redefining the synagogue's mission and goals based on the changing needs of this community.