The roots of Temple Emunah stretch back to the beginning of the 20th century. A small group of Jewish families formed the East Lexington Hebrew Congregation in 1911, and they built an Orthodox synagogue on Sylvia Street, Temple B'nai Jacob.
They were practical people and constructed the building so it could be someone's home if the synagogue didn't flourish. The "Sylvia Street Shul" held its first service on Passover, 1916. To become Bar Mitzvah, children rode the streetcar to Roxbury or the West End of Boston to learn their Haftorah portion. About 50 Jewish families lived in the area then.
After a period of decline, in 1945, another group of Jewish families organized the Arlington Jewish Community Center with annual dues of $6.00. They started a Hebrew school and sponsored many social action, educational and recreational activities, all of which exemplify the spirit of Temple Emunah today. They attended services at the Sylvia Street Shul and, within two years, purchased Conservative prayer books for use there. They started adult Hebrew reading and language classes, sponsored a Sports Night, square dances, and lectures on topics such as socialized medicine. In 1949, a building fund was established and they made $100 on the Harvest supper. IN 1950, the Center Frolics raised $2,000.
By 1955, 100 families belonged to the Arlington-Lexington-Bedford JCC (ALBJCC), the dues were $60, and with the help of the sales of the Sylvia Street Shul, they purchased a building at 1508 Mass Avenue in Lexington. Rabbi Judah Stampfer was the part-time rabbi, but he planned an academic career and was not available to be the spiritual leader. Membership increased rapidly and the Sisterhood and Brotherhood were very active during those years.
In 1959, 180 member families decided to hire a full-time rabbi, but when the board chose a Reform rabbi, the majority of the ALGBJCC voted not to accept him. The supporters of this rabbi left to form Temple Isaiah in June 1959.
The remainder of the congregation hired Rabbi Herbert Rosenblum in August 1959, and agreed to become a Conservative synagogue. Rabbi Rosenblum encouraged the growth of the school, created a Hebrew High School, helped members learn to daven and lead services, and promoted the daily minyan. High Holiday Services had to be held in the Hancock Congregational Church. It was time for another building campaign. Fortunately, in 1960, a group of Belmont families agreed to join forces with ALBJCC if they would affiliate as a Conservative congregation and build a new synagogue in a location convenient to all.
In 1961, approximately 150 families chose the name Temple Emunah, found a beautiful but rocky site, raised over $200,000, and began construction by dynamiting in November. Everyone was excited about the new building, designed for 350 families.
The congregation rejoiced in finally holding High Holiday services in their own Sanctuary, dedicated in September 1963. During those years, Emunah joined the United Synagogue Youth and began a joint project with Temple Isaiah, the Lexington Institute for Jewish Studies. As before, the congregation participated actively in the religious services and made the decision not to hire a permanent cantor; members often led the prayers and joyful singing that still typify Emunah services today.
In 1971, the Hebrew school had 380 students, and Rabbi Joel Meyers became the new rabbi. The congregation was so large that he met with five couples each month to get to know then. During his tenure, the Havurah program was initiated, and women became full participants in the worship service. The Brotherhood, Sisterhood, Adult Education, Social Action, Ways and Means, and Youth programs continued to be very active. Temple Emunah's bar mitzvah year in the new building was marked with a Kallah of study, with member Professor Nahum Glatzer (z"l) delivering the guest lecture. Hebrew school tuition was $160 in 1974. In 1978, Carolyn Keller became the Educational Director and instituted many creative programs such as B'Yahad Hebrew classes for children with special needs. Temple Emunah, the Religious School and its service organizations won many awards for their outstanding achievements.
In 1981, Rabbi Richard Meirowitz came to Temple Emunah. During his leadership, adult bat mitzvah classes, Shabbat Shalom services for tots, and the Bereavement Committee started. By 1984, the 25th anniversary of Temple Emunah, the dues were $530, we had 420 families and the total budget amounted to $325,000. The first adult bat mitzvah class graduated in May 1985. Rabbi Herman Blumberg served as interim rabbi from 1985-1986.
In 1986, Rabbi Bernard Eisenman arrived, providing new spiritual and scholarly guidance. Like his predecessors, Rabbi Eisenman emphasized Jewish education. In particular, he supported the formation of the Billy Dalwin Preschool I n1989, and diverse worship services such as Minyan Katan. The pre-school, led since its inception by Shelley Rossman, has graduated over 250 students. In 1987, Rabbi Eisenman and his wife, Billie, took a group of members on a tour of Israel, and the USY won the International Chapter of the Year award. In 1988, Serene Victor became the educational director, and held this position for 11 years.
The membership and diversity of programs continued to increase. The building required repairs and renovations, including a new boiler and roof. In May 1992 the synagogue was rededicated. Since that time, our adult education program has become nationally recognized, including the House of Ascending Studies, Ivrit-la-Kol/Hebrew for All, and the Institute for Jewish Studies.
In 1993, the Family Education program and TIKKUN were introduced, and in 1994 the Mak'haylah (choir) and 55+ Club began. Also, Temple Emunah was chosen to participate in the first two-year Me'ah program of intensive Jewish learning for adults. Another significant addition, the Keruv program, reaches out to intermarried couples, lends support to parents and grandparents, and welcomes members of the Jewish gay and lesbian community. CJP and the Commission for Jewish Continuity have supported many of these programs.
By 1999, Emunah's 520 families needed more space for educational, social, religious, and youth programs. The Capital Campaign raised over $5.5 million to construct a major addition to the original building. Many congregants worked patiently and tirelessly and gave generously to make the dream come true. Groundbreaking was held on September 15, 2002 and, once again, the rock blasting began. On October 12, 2003, the Sacred Torah scrolls were transferred to our beautiful new Sanctuary. "Happy are they who dwell in Your House."
In 2004, Rabbi Eisenman retired as our Rabbi Emeritus and Rabbi David Lerner became our new spiritual leader. Rabbi Lerner has brought new energy to our community and we have seen a significant increase in the number of young families joining Temple Emunah. With his vision of building our community along three pillars of Caring, Learning, Shabbat, Rabbi Lerner has guided the development of Tot Shabbat and our Family Minyan. He has also expanded our Israel programming, including congregational tours to Israel, and is recognized as an outstanding teacher by our youth as well as adult congregants. In 2009, Rabbi Lerner led us in celebrating our 50th anniversary.
In 2006, Temple Emunah hired Rabbi Marci Jacobs as its first Assistant Rabbi (and first woman rabbi at Temple Emunah). In addition to her educational, spiritual and pastoral contributions, Rabbi Jacobs enriched our lay-led davening by teaching us new nusach and melodies. Rabbi Jacobs left our community in 2011.
In 2011, we welcomed Rabbi Michael Fel as our new Assistant Rabbi, and he became our Associate Rabbi in 2015. Rabbi Fel has brought great energy and enthusiasm to Temple Emunah, and he is a gifted community builder and teacher.