STEUBENVILLE - Members of the Temple Beth Israel congregation began their final services at the synagogue with Rosh Hashanah ceremonies Wednesday night and Thursday morning.
Yom Kippur services will be held next Friday night and all day Saturday when members of the local Jewish community say goodbye to Temple Beth Israel on Lovers Lane.
The building that has served as a synagogue since 1966 was sold last year to Tri-State Health Services, which has opened the Prime Time Senior Citizen Center in the facility.
Rabbi Janet Roberts practiced blowing the shofar Thursday morning for the Rosh Hashanah services at Temple Beth Israel. The semi-retired rabbi from New York was asked to lead the Rosh Hashanah services this week and Yom Kippur services next week for the local Jewish community, whose members are preparing to close their synagogue. -- Dave Gossett
"This is a building," said visiting Rabbi Janet Roberts. "As significant as any house of worship, it is really in the Jewish home where we learn our values. It is in our homes where our traditions are passed on. There will be a sense of loss when a congregation closes its building. But the people here will still constitute a congregation."
"We don't feel this is about loss. The building may close, but the people will go on," added Roberts.
According to Myron Chijner, "We made the decision a year ago to sell the building. We formed a board and made the decision. We were fortunate to be able to sell the property in the current real estate market and environment."
"We then made decisions on where some of the items here would go. Our memorial boards have been sent to a congregation in Pittsburgh, and several items were sent to the congregation in Wheeling. The Torahs will be donated in the names of former temple presidents to different congregations. And we will be sending our paperwork to Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati for its archives," explained Chijner.
Chijner has been a member of Temple Beth Israel since 1980.
"I was a member of Congregation B'Nai Israel on South Fifth Street until it merged with Temple Beth Israel. It is sad to see our temple close, but it is something that has evolved over time. It's life. You see it coming because we started running out of people. The Pittsburgh congregation has given membership to anyone interested for the rest of the year," said Chijner.
The two-hour service Thursday marked the beginning of the 10-day period known in the Jewish faith as the Days of Awe.
Roberts said it is a time of intense personal reflection.
"We examine our actions during the past year and make amends saying we are sorry to anyone we may have injured in some way in the past year. It is a time of prayer and introspection. Jews are asked to Tzedakah, or to be charitable. But it is more than charity. It is charity because you are moved to be charitable. For Jews Tzedakah is a Biblical commandment. This is also a day of remembrance when we sound the shofar," said Roberts.
Jennie Bernstein was recognized at the end of the services for her 28 years of work at the temple.
"Arthur Recht and I may be the temple co-presidents, but Jennie really ran this place. I hate to put her out of a job, but the end comes for all of us," said Co-President Sanford Berman.
Bernstein said she has been a member at the Temple Beth Israel, "since I moved to Steubenville in 1972."
"It is sad to see the temple close, but I think the senior citizen center is going to be a really nice place. There is a lot of excitement since the center opened. I will still be here for another month or so cleaning out my office and the final paperwork," Bernstein said.
"The Jewish community has left a legacy in the form of the senior citizen center. The Jewish community in our area will continue in Wheeling and Pittsburgh. It is time for a change for us," said Berman.
"Shalom," said Roberts in her closing comments.
The visiting rabbi from New York, who was asked to come back for the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services, led the congregation to the Steubenville Marina to cast their symbolic sins onto the water.
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)