Special to the Transcript
Sundown, on Tuesday, 18 October 2023, marked the end of the High Holidays season of the new Jewish year 5783. As they have been well over a century, these Hebrew holidays – New Year, Day of Atonement, and Tabernacles – were again celebrated at Temple Tifereth Israel of Winthrop.
Back in 1912, a new Jewish organization – what was then called the “Tifereth Israel Congregation of Winthrop” – was organized. Now known as Congregation Tifereth Israel, this organization is well into its second century of serving the religious and social needs of the Jewish community in Winthrop and in the area surrounding Winthrop.
Today’s Temple Tifereth Israel conducts services every Saturday and Sunday morning and on Hebrew Holidays. Its Hebrew school holds classes on Sunday mornings and is the only Hebrew School available to residents of Winthrop and the nearby communities.
The Temple continues to stand as a tribute to those who established a Jewish presence in the town of Winthrop at the start of the twentieth century and as a powerful reminder of America’s religious and ethnic diversity and tolerance.
Temple Tifereth Israel of Winthrop has played a significant role in the history of Winthrop and its surrounding communities for more than a century.
By the middle of the 20th century, it became clear that the continued growth of the congregation required a new and larger synagogue. A new building committee was formed, resulting in the design of a larger and more modern structure. Religious services were temporarily transferred to the community center in 1962 and the original synagogue was razed, along with two neighboring houses. Four years later, in March of 1966, the new home for the Tifereth Israel Congregation was dedicated as Temple Tifereth Israel. A festive parade was held to carry the Torah scrolls the short distance from the community center to their new home at 93 Veterans Road.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Temple Tifereth Israel was a vibrant and flourishing organization in the town of Winthrop, with Temple membership exceeding 1,000. The Temple was served by a full-time rabbi, a sexton and a cantor, along with office staff and a maintenance person. Morning, afternoon and evening services were held every day of the year. The Temple maintained a vigorous Hebrew school with full and part-time teachers.
Since the beginning of the new millennium, the outlook for Temple Tifereth Israel has brightened considerably. Temple membership since the year 2000 has stabilized at around 100 families. In addition to religious services, a number of non-religious events are held throughout the year, some for fund raising and others for purely social reasons.
These days, Winthrop’s Temple Tifereth Israel serves as the focus for those members of the Jewish faith that have remained in Winthrop, for returnees, for newcomers to Winthrop and for members of Winthrop’s surrounding communities. The Temple serves as the center of Jewish life and culture for anyone contemplating a move to Winthrop. The Temple maintains a web site at jewishwinthrop.org and is also represented on Facebook at Temple Tifereth Israel – Winthrop.
The most important element of any temple is its youth. Temple Tifereth Israel has a Hebrew School which offers a Jewish education to children in Winthrop and the surrounding communities. Graduates of the Temple’s Hebrew School have gone on to further their Hebrew education at higher institutions of Jewish learning, such as the Gann Academy and Prozdor.
This past September, a new rabbi – Rabbi Benjamin Flax – was hired by the Temple. Rabbi Flax has bought a new, dynamic and modern atmosphere to the Temple – both in its religious and its social aspects. The new look at the Temple was never more evident than in the recently concluded 2022 High Holiday services that the rabbi led at the end of September and in the beginning of October. Attendees at these services were unanimous and effusive in praising the conduct of these services which were conducted jointly and seamlessly in English and in Hebrew.
Today’s Temple Tifereth Israel blends together Orthodox, Conservative and Reform elements into its participatory services and practices. It welcomes all who seek a friendly, comfortable and non-judgmental congregation in a relaxed and unintimidating atmosphere.
With the start of the Jewish New Year 5783, Temple Tifereth Israel looks forward to continuing to serve the Town of Winthrop and the surrounding communities. It wishes all resident of these communities a happy, prosperous, and healthy new year. Above all, it wishes people everywhere a peaceful new year.