A History of Temple Beth El
117 Jeffereson Avenu
Temple Beth El, the only synagogue in Endicott, has a history which is intimately woven with the history of the Jews in the Endicott community. 1905 saw the arrival of Max Levinson, the first Jewish family to settle permanently in Endicott. They moved to Endicott from a small town in Pennsylvania when a July 4th fireworks display caused the local lumber-mill to burn down. Over the next twenty years, the increase of Jewish settlers was slow but steady. In 1925, the only Jewish family names were Pauser, Schreiber, Perl, Lachman, Rouff, Markowitz, Levene, Schapiro, Sallerson, Berkowitz, and Levinson. These early residents attended holiday services by taking a trolley from Endicott to the Binghamton, where services were held. Religious services for the High Holidays were started in Endicott in 1928, primarily under the leadership of Louis Schreiber and Joseph Lachman. That was some twenty years before the building of the first synagogue here.
In October of 1934 the first meeting of what was called the Jewish Community Circle took place at the Hotel Frederick. Its purpose was "to promote good will and brotherly love among the Jewish Community, to get acquainted and cope with Jewish problems, to offer relief to those in need, to raise the morale, and promote spiritual and intellectual development." The officers elected at that meeting were Harry Sallerson (President), Joseph Lachman (Vice President), J A Robbins (Secretary), and Ruby Levine (treasurer). Other board members were Max Levinson and Louis Schreiber, J Y Becker, and J Rouff.
During the same month a Ladies' Auxillary was formed. Officers were Netty Levine (President), Bea Phillips (Vice President), Hannah Perl (Secretary), and Ruth Cohen (treasurer). Elected directors were J A Robbins, Ida Lachman, Hannah Sallerson, and Fanny Pauser. Dues for both groups were 75 cents per family, or 25 cents for a single woman and 50 cents for a single man.
In November of 1948 the Jewish Community Circle was incorporated under the name of Endicott Jewish Community Center, and plans were formulated to purchase a lot on Jefferson Avenue for the construction of the synagogue. A 1949 newspaper clipping quotes David Shapiro, president of the group at that time, as predicting the occupancy of the new synagogue in September of that year. The article lists the approximate cost at $35,000 and says that the building will serve and acomodate some 45 families. The International Order of Oddfellows' hall on Riverview Drive had served as a chapel during the intervening years before the temple's construction.
Even though the Temple wasn't fully completed, some meetings were held in it in September 1949 to approve new by-laws and a constitution. In January 1950, the first regular Friday night services was held in the new synagogue, with Joseph Lachman conducting the service and Dr Seymour Mann giving the sermon. Other milestones:
In 1952 parishioners of Endicott's St Paul's Episcopal Church were faced with the problem of being without a place of worship for 10 months while their church was being constructed. The Jewish congregation invited them to use their Temple and the invitation was accepted. From April 1952 until January 1953 the Temple served as a place of worship for both congregations, and in 1955 plaques commemorating this act of brotherhood were hung in each place of worship.
In the early 1960's a religious school addition was completed and a new home for the rabbi was built next door, at 119 Jefferson Avenue.
After years of dwindling membership, Temple Beth El closed its doors for good in 1988. The pews and many religious articles, such as memorial plaques, were transferred to Temple Israel in neighboring Vestal, New York. The building on Jefferson Avenue in Endicott now houses the Ballet Arts Theatre.