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Our New Home in Northbrook

On Nov. 13, 1988, a joint groundbreaking and cornerstone-laying ceremony was held for the Slavin-Malkin Religious School building at 3610 Dundee Road. Attendees received commemorative programs and trowels, and family and temple artifacts were placed in the cornerstone box for preservation. Construction on Phase I had officially begun, and the temple turned to its next order of business: selling the structure on Touhy Avenue. Committed to keeping the building within the Jewish community while seeking to maintain all synagogue activities on Touhy Avenue for as long as possible, the rabbi and board of directors ultimately authorized the sale of the Touhy Avenue synagogue to the Zarem/Golde ORT Technical Institute of Chicago. Through an agreement with the new owners, Beth-El continued to use the building for worship and study into the 1990s.

Meanwhile, an inaugural service for the Northbrook synagogue was planned for the fall of 1989. A Slavin-Malkin Religious School dedication committee was formed with Gordon Levine as its chair, and the committee organized the official dedication of 3610 Dundee Road in September 1989. Rabbi Gary Zola, a former pupil of Rabbi Weissberg and one of 17 rabbis to emerge from Temple Beth-El during Rabbi Weissberg’s tenure, (A list of these rabbis should appear in an index at the end of this book.) delivered the keynote address at the outdoor ceremony. The occasion culminated in a festive procession from Walters Avenue to Dundee Road during which the synagogue’s Torahs were carried to their new and permanent home.

Linking the past to the future, Chicago to Northbrook, one generation of Jewish experience to the next, the procession simultaneously affirmed Beth-El’s forward march of progress and commitment to past history. With the Torahs secure in Fink Hall, the new chapel, 3610 Dundee Road was officially consecrated as a house of worship, and another chapter of Temple Beth-El’s story was complete.

Life at the new temple also brought new rabbinic leadership. The congregation welcomed assistant rabbi Eitan Weiner-Kaplow in 1991 following the three-year assistantship of Rabbi James Sagarin (most recently the spiritual leader of Temple Menorah in West Rogers Park). Weiner-Kaplow’s Reconstructionist background brought a fresh approach to Jewish living to the synagogue, and the assistant rabbi’s teachings gave the temple community greater perspective on the many facets of living Jewishly.

After three years of life in the suburbs, the temple was due for another major celebration—October 1991 marked Beth-El’s 120th anniversary. Festivities were planned for the following spring and a dinner dance was held at the Westin O’Hare Hotel on May 31, 1992. Outgoing presidents Sid and Elaine Brichta—the only couple to ever jointly hold the office of president at Beth-El—presented the welcoming remarks, Rabbi Weissberg offered the invocation and Rabbi Weiner-Kaplow gave the benediction, and the music group Spectrum provided the entertainment. The anniversary celebration gave Beth-El’s congregants much to reflect upon; in 120 years, the synagogue had moved six times, grown from 15 to over 850 members (at the height of Touhy), and had been home to 12 rabbis and seven assistant rabbis. The Beth-El community certainly had much to be proud of.

Sat, July 13 2024 7 Tammuz 5784