- Our Synagogue
Sarasota, Florida was a small fishing village in 1913, when the gradual migration of Jewish families to this area started. On December 8, 1913, twenty people formed a social organization called The Community Center of Sarasota and Articles of Incorporation were filed. Thirteen years later, the Jewish community celebrated Yom Kippur with the first religious service held in the Tyler Building on Third Street.
In 1927, John Ringling brought world-wide recognition to Sarasota when he made it the winter headquarters of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus. At this time, Temple Beth Sholom was raising funds for a new synagogue building on Washington Avenue and John Ringling made the largest single contribution to the Temple Beth Sholom Building Fund. By Rosh Hashanah, 1928, services were held in the new building and a new influx of congregants to Temple Beth Sholom enhanced our growing membership.
As the population in Sarasota grew to almost 10,000 residents in 1929, the membership at Temple Beth Sholom was also expanding. In the early 1930's, Joseph Idelson, a founding member of Temple Beth Sholom, appeared before the Sarasota City Commission and obtained land as a gift from the city, to be used for the Temple Beth Sholom cemetery and by 1932, a Temple Cemetery Committee was established. In 1943, the Jewish community was involved with the establishment of a new synagogue on Sixth Street which was only open for Friday evening services.
After a post World War II economic boom, tourists discovered Sarasota, more people became permanent settlers, and the Jewish community began to grow. In response to this growth, Temple Beth Sholom and the Jewish Community Center expanded the facilities on Sixth Street to accommodate a religious school. The rededication was held on February 1, 1953. However, lack of synagogue parking facilities downtown and the trend of the population to move to the south side of town, made it evident that the congregation's 130 families had outgrown its location at Sixth Street and Washington Boulevard.
With the steady and substantial progress of the city, downtown Sarasota, was feeling the effect of new major housing developments in the 1950's. It was a time of renewal and change.
Looking forward to the future growth of the synagogue and the religious school, a land acquisition committee was formed. This committee negotiated the purchase of a seven-and-a-half acre site at the intersection of Tuttle Avenue and Bahia Vista Street for $35,000.
The congregants of Temple Beth Sholom would soon be given the opportunity to experience the joy of having a new beginning in a new location, 1050 South Tuttle Avenue. Under the guidance and expertise of the Paver family, the building plan was modified and much needed classrooms for the religious school were built, leaving the construction of the main sanctuary to be added later.
During the 1960's, the Jewish presence in Sarasota became more apparent. Jews actively participated in all areas of local, civic, cultural and philanthropic life. Temple Beth Sholom became officially affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism in September, 1960. Many new activities were initiated by the young congregants at the Temple. The first synagogue youth group, USY, was organized and by 1965, a preschool was established.
The new building boom of the early 1970's resulted in an influx of Jewish people from all parts of the world. Many of the new arrivals joined Temple Beth Sholom, increasing our membership to 300 families. It now appeared that the makeshift sanctuary was unable to accommodate the growing congregation. A building committee was formed and construction of the sanctuary began in 1972. The dedication service of the new sanctuary was held on Friday, November 8, 1974 and just three years later, Temple Beth Sholom celebrated its 50th anniversary on January 7, 1977.
Downtown Sarasota experienced a resurgence during the 1980's, characterized by a redevelopment effort that included landscaping, parks, public art, a multi-screen movie house, and a theatre and arts district. Upscale housing developments and condominiums built throughout the Gulf Coast attracted newcomers, both visitors and permanent residents, in unprecedented numbers.
In the early 1980's Rabbi Max Roth became the new officiating Rabbi, and under the tenure of the first woman president of the Temple, Audrey Watson, women of the congregation became involved in religious services for the first time.
Beginning in 1985, the largest building expansion program in the history of Temple Beth Sholom was established. The first phase of the expansion, the Martin and Mildred Paver Religious School, was dedicated in 1988. In 1989, Temple Beth Sholom hired Diane Nathanson and she began serving as our full-time cantor.
The second phase of the Temple Beth Sholom expansion program included the Schoenbaum Religious Center which houses the Band-Desenberg Chapel, the Kalin Administration Wing, the Rose and Joseph Idelson Library, the Sisterhood Judaica Shop and the Joann Idelson Alterman Youth Lounge. The newly expanded complex was dedicated on October 14, 1990.
With the enhancement of our synagogue facilities, Temple Beth Sholom became a cultural center for all our members, both young and old. The first Tot Shabbat program was organized and brought a new dimension to our temple family. Students in the religious school were encouraged to participate in youth programming by joining Chalutzim, Kadima, or USY. In response to these new programs and to the need created by more anticipated social events, the Madeline Sainer Social Hall was renovated.
The 1990's brought many changes to Temple Beth Sholom and to the synagogue leadership. With the formal dedication of a Men's Club Holocaust Memorial Garden in October, 1993, the entrance to our building was enhanced. The membership of Temple Beth Sholom increased to 630 families in 1994. It was also this year that Diane Nathanson was voted in as a member of the Cantors Assembly and subsequently was invested as Hazzan.
In September 1996, a family education program was introduced as part of our religious school curriculum. On October 6, 1996, the dedication of a new Sefer Torah by the Sisterhood was held and a marriage of our new Torah to the old was performed. The 70th anniversary of the first Jewish religious service held in Sarasota was celebrated during the weekend of December 5, 1996, with a gala dinner dance.
Temple Beth Sholom was now on its way to actualize its potential. Temple Beth Sholom became a full service Conservative congregation with a kosher kitchen, an active and growing Adult Education Program, the Justin Lee Wiesner Preschool, and the Martin and Mildred Paver Religious School.
In 1998, the synagogue leadership decided to expand its day school to encompass elementary and middle school, grades kindergarten to eighth grade. This expansion was given a great start through a one million dollar gift by congregant Goldie Feldman, followed by a capital campaign.
With the advent of the 21st century and a temple membership of over 400 families, a Sanctuary Beautification Project began. Arthur Sarlin, a professional artist and member of Temple Beth Sholom, created four sets of stained glass windows depicting Creation, Exodus, Revelation and Redemption. He also designed five hand woven tapestries, each depicting one of the five books of the Torah. These were completed and dedicated on December 22, 2000.
Now, after over 90 years of continuous service to the Jewish community of Sarasota, our congregation now has around 400 families and enjoys the reputation of having a religious school, a kosher kitchen, a complete Judaica Shop managed by volunteers of the TBS Sisterhood, a Judaica Museum and a serene Holocaust Garden sponsored by the TBS Men's Club, a year-round daily minyan, a Judaic Library, an ever-growing list of congregational learning classes, and a beautiful cemetery for our members. We are now a complete and full-service congregation dedicated to promoting intellectual and spiritual guidance to the Jewish community of Sarasota.
Temple Beth Sholom could not have reached this pinnacle of success without outstanding professional staff, dedicated lay leaders and an assemblage of committed volunteers, who have given so much of their time and energy to promote the continued growth and development of Temple Beth Sholom.