Established in 1883, Congregation Emanuel is the second oldest functioning Jewish congregation in North Carolina.
Notwithstanding the addition of modern conveniences, such as electricity and indoor plumbing, as well as the addition of an Educational Building in 1957 and, later, classrooms and a Social Hall, the synagogue stands much as it did when it was originally built in 1892.
The early 1950’s saw a resurgence of Jewish life in Statesville. Contributing factors to this growth included the post-war baby boom, and the southern migration of much of the textile industry. Many congregation members were engaged in the textile industry: Albert Schneider of Schneider Mills in Taylorsville; Leonard Polk had a mill in Conover; and Ben Katz and Howard Adler also moved to Statesville with the textile industry.
October 27th, 1953, a group of men from the local Jewish community met, and pledged $2000.00 to the re-dedication of the temple as a Conservative Congregation.
January 4th, 1954: meeting at the home of Mr. Louis Gordon resulted in a plan for repairing the temple.
During 1954, Congregation Emanuel joined the Circuit-Riding Rabbi Project, and organized a religious school and the “Ladies Auxiliary of Temple Emanuel.” Rabbi Harold Friedman, along with nine other rabbis in the Circuit, served the Congregation.
September 1st, 1954: Rabbi Friedman conducted the sanctuary’s re-dedication service.
December 1st, 1957: A second rededication ceremony took place upon the completion of the addition of the Educational Building. 150 people were in attendance at the rededication, and the Congregation counted 42 members at the time. Attendees included circuit-riding Rabbi Eli Gottesman and I.D. Blumenthal, president of the North Carolina Association of Jewish Men. Rabbi Gottesman, Joe Mann, Louis Gordon (President, Congregation Emanuel), and Albert Gruenhut participated in the Procession and Placing of the Torah into the ark. Ellis Gordon lit the Eternal Light. Mrs. S. Wallace Hoffman, Saul Gordon, and Max Lerner, with assistance from Elliott D. Cohen (architect and Building Committee chairman), laid the cornerstone of the educational building. Elliott Cohen presented the key to the building to Louis Gordon.
The Congregation continued to grow during this “renaissance” period, and the Congregation’s news included:
- 1956: Craig Gordon was born to Gene and Saul Gordon
- September 1957: Ruth and Leonard Polk joined the congregation
- 1960: Kalman and Toby Gordon were married; Richard Gordon was born to Rona and Alfred Gordon; Beverly and Hy Silberman, and Howard and Hanna Adler joined the congregation
- 1961: Susan Gordon was born to Gene and Saul Gordon
- 1962: first Bar Mitzvahs of the rededication era were held when both Paul Polk and Josh Schneider were called to the Torah; Wendy Gordon was born to Toby and Kalman
- 1963: Bar Mitzvahs of Jeffrey Katz and Mark Adler.
- 1964: Bar Mitzvah of Martin Silberman; Louis Gordon (father of Melvin, Ellis, Saul, Alfred and Kalman) passed away unexpectedly on December 21, 1964. Six days later, Louis Gordon born to Toby and Kalman Gordon.
- 1965: Robert Gordon was born to Rona and Alfred Gordon; Dr. S. Wallace Hoffman celebrated his 80th birthday at the Statesville Country Club with Mayor Garner Bagnal presenting him a distinguished citizen plaque. Dr. Hoffman’s inspiring words that day: “I’ve lived it all and enjoyed it. The best time is always the one that’s coming.”
During these years the Temple was also famous for its “Businessmen’s Lunches” organized by the Ladies’ Auxiliary.
Presidents 1960-1984: Nathan Lipshitz, Saul Gordon, Sol Ludwig, Melvin Gordon, Howard Adler, Hyman Silberman, Kalman Gordon, Warren Winthrop, Martin Leventhal, Ed Goldstein, Cecil Ram, and Larry Rosenfeld.
Ladies Auxiliary Presidents 1954-1984 (the last year of the Ladies Auxiliary): Leah Hoffman, Irene Steinberger, Jacquie Schneider, Joyce Lipshitz, Gene Gordon, Ruth Polk, Muriel Ludwig, Barbara Gordon, Toby Gordon, Diane Walsh, Barbara Winthrop, Beverly Silberman, Ruth Goldstein, Jacquie Homesley, Judy Ram, Joanne Rosenfeld and Betty Lee.
Rabbis through 1984: Harold Friedman, Eli Gottesman, Alan Fuchs, Stanley Plattock, David Geffin, Richard Marcovitz, David Nelson, Abraham Garmaize, Selwyn Geller, Mayer Gruber, Irwin Beigel, Haim Gordon, Jack Dembowitz, and Israel Gerber.
The 100th Anniversary of Congregation Emanuel was celebrated during the weekend of August 19th-21st, 1983. Hannah Adler, who has served as Corresponding Secretary for many years, put together a wonderful commemorative booklet.
The Congregation continued to thrive through the Eighties. In 1988, there was a resurgence of Jewish families. Barbara Podair and Fawn Combs served as co principals of the Hebrew School. Also teaching in the Hebrew School: Diane Emery (arts and crafts), Fred Marks (history), Neil Kassman (history), Barbara Podair (Hebrew), Mrs. Friedman (Hebrew), and Beverly Maurice (Hebrew). School performances were directed by Judy Ram and, each year, the Hebrew School sponsored a Purim carnival, Hanukkah party and Seder. All the children – Bradley and Elizabeth Podair, Danny Sudman, Jeffrey and Allyson Onsrud, Mahalia Siegel, Jessica Emery, Celia Throop, Daniel Martin, “A.J.” Jaffe, Adam Harell, Rachel Goldstein, Eric and Ryan Robinson, Kate Sykes, and Robert Gutzeit – became Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.
The Congregation has adapted to changing times. Congregation Emanuel continues to be an important member of the Statesville/Iredell County/Lake Norman area and leads programming in many areas. For example, starting in 2005 and continuing to this day, Congregation Emanuel partners with area religious organizations to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day. In 2005, two Yom HaShoah remembrance observances, attended by full houses, were co-sponsored with our neighboring First Presbyterian Church. We also network with other Jewish communities in the area, and are a member of the Jewish Council of Lake Norman.
Congregation Emanuel continues to have a strong weekly Friday Night Service program, as well as High Holiday Services led by Hebrew educator Steve Kerbel of Washington, D.C, with cantorial assistance from Mitch Siegel.
The following are among the persons who have proudly served our community in current years:
Presidents – Jack Celnik, Eddie Goldstein(z”l), Manfred Katz, Kalman Gordon(z”l), Michael Landau(z”l), Fred Marks, Steve Martin, Beverly Maurice, Leonard Polk(z”l), Helen Rifas, Mark Robinson, Joanne Rosenfeld, Larry Rosenfeld, Michael Schlesinger, Albert Schneider (z”l) , George Simon, and Elliott Vizel.
Rabbis – Andrew Ettin, Steve Kerbel – Hebrew Educator, Allan Selis, Murray Ezring – visiting from Temple Israel in Charlotte, Ari Sunshine, Motti Arad, Jeff Poelvoorde – Judaic Scholar, Aaron Philmus – 5769 Rabbinical Fellow, Sarah Freidson – 5770 Rabbinical Fellow, Deborah Zuker – 5771 Rabbinical Fellow, Aaron Weininger – 5772 Rabbinical Fellow, and Dahlia Bernstein – 5773 Rabbinical Fellow.
Other recent officers: Pearl Abramsky, Sid Abramsky, Howard Adler(z”l), Hannah Adler, Steve Bograd, Kevin Combs, Diane Emery, Howard Goldberg, Alfred Gordon (z”l), Barry Gordon, Richard Gordon, Rona Gordon , Wendy Gordon Pake, Jacquie Homesley, Jennifer Friedman Ingle, Libbie Katz, Manfred Katz, Mona Lieberman, Jane Martin, Steve Martin, Jeff Masingo, Leslie Masingo, Arnold Podair, Barbara Podair, Leonard Polk (z”l), Helen Rifas, Robin Rosenfeld, Bob Saltzman, Shelly Starman-Onsrud, Stacey Schlesinger, Hy Silberman (z”l), Barbara Winthrop. And to all our members who have contributed their time and effort for the benefit of the congregation: thank you!