Dr. Robert S. Widom
Dr. Steven Adlow
Sol C. Chaikin*
The year was 1953: July 22nd to be exact, when a group of Great Neck residents, convinced that only a liberal view of our Jewish faith would best serve them and their children, set out to create the institution which would concretize this desire.
Those who led believed that a temple, to be effective, needed to be small and intimate, thereby generating warm feelings of religious fellowship. That motivating concept has always remained the guideline of our temple leadership.
The organization of this new Reform congregation proceeded at a torrid, whirlwind pace. On August 11th, a group of twenty families met at the Arrandale School with Rabbi Albert G. Baum, director of New Congregations of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and together they set to work forming committees and initiating programs for religious education. Rabbi Chaim Etrog was called upon to serve on a part-time basis as the first spiritual leader of Temple Emanuel. With Rosh Hashanah only a few weeks away, the Community Church offered its facilities. The temple was incorporated on January 25, 1954, and in October of that year, a beautiful estate of six acres on Hicks Lane in Kings Point was purchased. Quickly the main house was converted into a sanctuary and served all functions associated with a modern temple. Activities increased so rapidly that the services of a full-time rabbi were needed almost at once. Rabbi Walter Plaut was called upon to serve, and under his dynamic leadership, the congregation continued to grow at a rapid pace.
It soon became clear that the main house of the mansion was no longer adequate for the needs of an expanding and active congregation. After plans were drawn and approved by committee, on May 18, 1958 ground was broken for the new Temple Emanuel. Within less than a year the building was completed, and at the dedication service held on April 17, 1959, Rabbi Plaut said, "He who knows Jewish history understands that this temple stands as the true expression of the human soul."
In 1964, the congregation suffered a grievous loss in the tragic passing of Rabbi Plaut. Rabbi Avraham Soltes, summoned to pick up the reins of rabbinic leadership, served for five years.
In 1969, Dr. Robert S. Widom, young in years but mature in judgment, was elected rabbi of Temple Emanuel. Immediately, he made it clear that it was his way to maintain reverence for, but never bondage to, the past. It was his way to walk new paths and create new forms, yet always within the context of love and an appreciation of our Jewish heritage. We came to understand that it was his way to zero in on the hurts of the individual and deal as personally as he knew how, with every human concern.
Commenting on the Temple Emanuel philosophy, Rabbi Widom wrote: "To make a meaningful contribution is our hope; to stand in the breach when lives are touched by absurdity is our function; to represent a heritage that celebrates compassion and love is our purpose. May we respond to each day with pride in our work and with trust in those who companion our lives."
At Temple Emanuel, we think of ourselves as a family, and we look forward to welcoming you as one of its members.
We come together for Friday night services where, in the words of Rabbi Widom, "we lose ourselves... only to find ourselves." It is a special moment in the course of the week that allows for personal contemplation and spiritual renewal. The Jewish holidays at Temple Emanuel are also a special time for observing the traditional customs of our people as we enjoy coming together as individuals, as families.
Two other vitally important components of congregational life are our religious and nursery schools. They are centers of learning that provide age-appropriate education for our membership families, as do the many courses that are offered throughout the year by our Academy for Jewish Studies. In addition, we sponsor speakers of renown who come to discuss current issues of concern. In the past, we have hosted Abba Eban, Henry Kissinger, Jeane Kirkpatrick and Madame Anwar Sadat, to name just a few of the notables who have appeared at Emanuel. Recently, Mrs. Leah Rabin, Amos Oz and Sir Martin Gilbert addressed the congregation and community from our pulpit.
The Sisterhood, Brotherhood and Youth Group provide a myriad of opportunities for our membership to get together socially - from museum trips to fishing trips to the Purim Carnival and the annual Passover seder, we endeavor to answer all of your recreational, cultural, and religious needs.
As a matter of fact, the role of serving the needs of the congregation and community is as important as anything that we do. Our work for the community is coordinated by the Social Action Committee. Health Care Seminars and fundraisers for children with cancer are among the programs that are sponsored by Social Action. The Brotherhood sponsors an annual blood drive; the Sisterhood, in cooperation with Nassau County, sponsors a program that provides free mammograms for low income women. With regard to our own congregants - we take our people's problems very seriously; we concretize all of our values by dealing with people's problems through the work of our Social Service Department.
If you are thinking about joining a synagogue, there is, in fact, much to think about. Please call us at 516-482-5701. We would be happy to speak with you and answer any questions that you may have.