|There are no formal
written records of congregational proceedings since the last
entry was made in 1899. Or if there were - and some believe so -
they were lost in the floods of 1936 and 1942. Many of these
records were housed in the office of Katz Underwear Co. and Katz
Bros., Inc. (Katz Department Store). The minutes book from 1849
to 1899 was found in an unbound condition and was sent off to be
bound. It is now in the archives of the congregation.
What here follows is either conjecture or information which was
passed down to the writer until he was able to observe and take
part. If it appears to the reader as slanted - so be it. I do
not profess to being a historian so if these words seem to be
subjective then they were written with my eyes wide open.
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Past Presidents of the
congregation were Samuel Frankel, Samuel Katz, Jacob Katz,
Leopold Blumenthal, E.A. Katz, Isadore Roos, Irving Newman,
William Roos, Leonard Weiss and Henry Skier.
The congregation followed the Reform liturgy and was associated
with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Jewish
Institute of Religion - two groups, while not entirely disparate
but certainly separate, which would one day join and become one.
We chose our rabbis from Cincinnati and later from New York.
Resistance to incorporate some "old country" rituals
was strong. Many of the new congregants who were of Eastern
European heritage brought with them feelings that were foreign
to the then well-rooted establishment. Tashlich was new to many
of us, but this has become an annual ritual. So far nobody has
suggested kippura schlagen
Sabbath school was taught by women of the Sisterhood and then,
in preparation for Bar Mitzvah and Confirmation, a Malamud was
brought from Scranton each Sunday to teach us Hebrew and bible.
Rabbis came for the High Holy Days and some Festivals but, for
the balance of the year Sabbath Services were held each Friday
night with a lay reader - this for the entire year except for
the summer months. While the list is not complete we were served
in the years 1937 to 1954 by both student and ordained rabbis.
John Tepfer, Joseph Friedman, Baruch Braunstein, Herbert Weiner,
Rayfield Helman, Wendell Philips, Robert Brinkman, Jerome Spivak,
Bernard Bamberger, Samuel Volkman, Abraham Isaac Jacobson,
Bernard Permutter, Harold Spevak, Kenneth Rivkin, and Jerome
The Sisterhood was really the mainstay of fund raising. Really,
little was needed since Katz Underwear Company underwrote almost
all of the finances including upkeep. But the Sisterhood helped.
They met almost weekly at what was called a kaffe klatch; there
the women sewed garments for the poor and had occasion when they
met to talk over temple functions and other bits of gossip which
was, of course, the real reason for assembly. A Hadassah chapter
was formed and this new organization made overtures to merge
with the Sisterhood - a move which was rejected.
Three events were outstanding. In 1933, stained-glass gothic
type windows were installed which were to disappear in the 1942
flood. On a Friday evening during service, the river overcame
its banks and all assembled left with their lives. Baruch
Braunstein was the rabbi that night. He was to have served us
from 1940 to 1942. In 1949 a Centennial Celebration took place
with a dinner at the Grace Church social rooms. In 1962 an annex
to the temple was constructed. The decision to do this caused a
great division among the congregation - really something of a
schism - which threatened to cause some families to consider
leaving. I recall that many persons boned up on the finer points
of parliamentary procedure and challenged each other as to
interpretation. There was much acrimony and ungentlemanly
behavior which was not one of our prouder moments. But when one
reads many of the entries of the original minute book, we see
that this is merely atavism and reverting to type. The building
was constructed and some of the members chose not to attend
functions housed in "that building."
We went on with student rabbi after student rabbi and, for many
of us, wished for an ordained presence. It is true that Julius
Kravetz helped us out for many years but he had a difficult role
in that he also oversaw the student program. It was he, God
bless him, who suggested that we look to the Regional director
of the Pennsylvania Council of the Union of American Hebrew
Congregations for help. We did so and Rabbi Louis Bogage offered
to be our visiting rabbi - a position he shared with the
Director of Camp and Youth Programming, one Allan L. Smith. The
duo served us well. Rabbi Bogage was tied down to Philadelphia
and suggested that Rabbi Smith take over. The rest is
Two other noteworthy events: In 1974 we celebrated our 125th
year with Dr. Jacob Rader Marcus as speaker. In 1985 a
restoration program was undertaken. The results are evident and
Henry Skier weathered the storm of controversy as did Irving
Newman during the building of the addition.
The make-up of the congregation now shows that most members are
people who have recently moved to this area. I should like to
quote a line from Tennyson:
old order changeth, yielding place to the new,
God fulfills himself in many ways,
one good custom should corrupt the world."
All this having been said, it is fitting and providential that
we have cool heads at the helm - President Henry Skier and Rabbi
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. . . . . William J. Roos
Roos is the last direct descendent of the founders
of Congregation Beth Israel still residing in Honesdale.