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75th Anniversary of Temple Beth

As we kickoff our 75th Anniversary in this unique building, I want to reflect for a moment on our rich Jewish history here in Lima, Ohio. 

In the early part of the 20th century, Lima grew into a bustling hub of both industry and business. Members of the early Lima Jewish community were instrumental in contributing to that growth. Our predecessors were in almost every facet of Lima’s early growth and development. Banker, Julius Solomon, newspaper publisher Adolph Weixelbaum, and clothier Maurice Hofeller to name a few. You may not be familiar with these or other names, like Edeleman, Rakowsky, and Yessenow who were instrumental in Lima’s growth following the Great Depression, but they are all inscribed on these walls. Our founders were also committed to growing Lima’s Jewish community and more Jews settled in Lima in the years following WWII. In fact, until the mid-1960’s, there were enough Jews in Lima to support 2 synagogues, one Reform and the other a conservative congregation. Temple Beth Israel-Shaare Zedek continues their joint legacy today. 

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Lima experienced further growth in the years following WWII. From the late 1940’s to the early 1970’s Lima’s Jewish community really grew, but more for the Reform congregation. In 1947, The Board of then Temple Beth Israel decided they could not sustain their continued growth in their current building, once located on the corner of Market and Charles Streets in what is now the west parking lot of St. Rita’s Hospital. In 1948 they organized a fundraising campaign to build a new Temple. The very same one in which we are all privileged to be gathered today. 

The site of the new Temple Beth Israel synagogue located at the corner of Lakewood and Glenwood Avenues was donated by prominent Lima developer and Temple member Benjamin Cogen who also built the Carlton House on Shawnee Rd. Groundbreaking took place in the Spring of 1948 and its ultra-modern design was to be a model for future small town America synagogue design. The connection with the famous Architect, Percival Goodman and Lima, Ohio is still unclear, but we do know of a connection with Ben Cogen, which presumably is the key. 

Mr. Goodman designed approximately 60 synagogues during his career until his death in 1989, and no two are the same style or design. A little bit of provenance should be noted here because our little Temple in Lima, Ohio was his very first one! 

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For some, like me, this may be the only Temple you have known, and for others this is yet another stop on your lifelong spiritual journey.  However, as we now look back on Lima’s rich Jewish history, ALL of us have a lot to be proud of and we certainly have come a long way in the last 75 years! 

Now, just as our predecessor did in 1949, we look ahead to the future. I believe we are at a crossroads. I encourage each one of you to think about our legacy and the one we want to leave for the next generation of Jews in Lima.  To quote Mr. Goodman’s charge given to the congregation at the dedication ceremony, “This Temple will belong to you, But its fulfillment is up to you.” 

I believe there is potential for growth again in the 21st century. We have adapted to and overcome numerous challenges over the last 75 years. However, will Temple Beth Israel-Shaare Zedek be ready to meet future challenges and continue as the place where Judaism lives in Lima?  That, my friends, IS the question!   The answer? I honestly don’t know. But I DO know it is not a singular one, but it is an answer that our collective efforts will ensure is a resounding. . . Yes, we ARE here! 

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