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In 1946, a few Jewish families living in and around south Florida’s Coral Gables area began meeting in homes, storefronts and at the University of Miami Hillel Center to worship and have social gatherings. Their numbers increased and in September 1948, the group officially formed the Coral Gables Jewish Center, joining the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, now know as the Union for Reform Judaism.  Soon thereafter, in 1950, Rabbi Morris Skop and Cantor Joseph Malek were hired, followed by the construction of a temple on Palemro Avenue in Coral Gables.  In 1956, the Coral Gables Jewish Center changed its name to Temple Judea.

In the early 1960’s, metropolitan Miami’s Jewish community was growing and young families were moving further south. The leadership of the congregation knew that their current location was not going to serve the needs of the families, and they began to re-evaluate how they could address this reality. In 1964 they hired Rabbi Morris Kipper who understood the needs of the traditional families and was able to attract young families.  (He later became the founder of the High School in Israel).

In 1966, with the help of the University of Miami, Temple Judea was able to purchase the current prominent location on US 1 in Coral Gables and dedicated the existing temple building, designed by the world renowned architect Morris Lapidus.  At that time the membership was 400 families, the school program had expanded to 6 hours/week, confirmation classes were holding retreats and a strong high school youth program was developed.

In 1973 Rabbi Michael Eisenstat came to Temple Judea where he would serve for 23 years until 1996.  During his tenure, in addition to all his other rabbinic duties, he authored extensive worship service liturgies; created the Annual community-wide Interfaith Day of Understanding and established a weekly Soup Kitchen for the poor that still exists today.

Through the years the congregation grew and expanded.  Enhancements such as the Grossman Room, Silverman Music Room, Harrison Library and Reiter pavilion patio, plus the sought-after Margaux Early Childhood School, were added.  The Temple also added social action programs; such as the annual Mitzvah Day; and involvement at local public schools. Other programming includes the Eric B. Meyers Scholar-In-Residence weekend; Kalish Artist in Residence; Apple Adult Learning; lecture series; Torah and Talmud study in multiple locations; rabbi and staff-led youth trips to Israel, New Orleans, and Washington, D.C.; rabbi-led congregational travel abroad; and a wide range of support groups open to the community.

In 1996, Rabbi Edwin Goldberg became Senior Rabbi. Rabbi Goldberg and the lay leadership instituted remarkable changes in worship, education, and youth programs. Through worship transformation, both the music and the prayer book for Shabbat Evening services changed. The congregation's long range planning effort resulted in the hiring of a full-time youth director and a full time educational director. Youth programming touched the lives of more than 300 children annually, with active programs starting in kindergarten and continuing through senior high school. Our religious school, now known as J-PLEx: Jewish Play and Learning Experience curriculum has been continually updated to stay current with today’s children’s demands. These changes equated to growth, requiring yet another renovation of the building in order to best serve the needs of the congregation as we moved rapidly into the 21st Century. The sacred space renovation was completed in September 2004. Our senior staffing was restructured to utilize a separate cantorial soloist and a B'nai Mitzvah mentor.

In 2006 Temple Judea took the much-needed step of adding a second rabbi, engaging Rabbi Judith Siegal shortly after her ordination. Rabbi Siegal became involved in every aspect of Temple Judea’s operation, from delivering High Holiday sermons, to attendance at all Board of Trustee and Executive Committee meetings, and to fundraising for our Capital Campaign. Rabbi Siegal’s growing stature in Reform Judaism was also reflected in her election to the CCAR board in 2010.

In 2013 the congregation welcomed Rabbi Peter S. Knobel as the intentional interim rabbi to serve one year while Temple Judea completed a thorough search for a new Senior Rabbi.  And in 2014 Rabbi Judith Siegal was named Senior Rabbi, the first female senior rabbi in Temple Judea’s 65-year history. Rabbi Siegal’s vision is one of creating a synagogue as a place of worship, study and making meaningful connections through a “kehila kedosha” or sacred community. Shortly after that Rabbi Jonathan Fisch was hired as the assistant rabbi, bringing his energy and passion in building and expanding our Jewish community from our youngest families to our most senior members. Finally in 2016 a long time dream was completed with the renovation and building of the Frank Family Education Center as a house of learning shared for generations. Today Temple Judea is thriving with more than 630 member households, with a dedicated leadership team and Board of Trustees, spiritual leaders and caring staff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thu, November 14 2019 16 Cheshvan 5780