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Jamaica, Nassau temples merge 330 families

The idea of combining Temple Israel of Jamaica and Temple Emanuel of New Hyde Park was a little difficult to grasp for the congregants of the two synagogues, Emanuel worshiper Merel Fishkin said.

"The longtime members had a hard time giving up their identity," she said.

After two years of planning and preparation, however, the 150 Temple Israel families and 180 Temple Emanuel families welcomed the change and celebrated it as their houses of worship officially consolidated Sunday into the Temple Tikvah: A Center of Reform Judaism.

The worshipers reconsecrated their sanctuary at Temple Emanuel's synagogue at 33-15 Hillside Ave. with an elaborate celebration. Rabbi Randy Sheinberg, who led the event with her fellow clergy members, said the large turnout of faithful members, young and old, from both institutions represented a re-energized spirit.

"I was really pleased to have such a big turnout and I feel there was a lot of excitement," she said.

Changing demographics at both synagogues had led to a significant decline in worshipers at both synagogues, according to Fishkin, who was appointed president of Temple Tikvah during the ceremony.

Two years ago the leaders of Temple Israel, which was 90 years old, and Temple Emanuel, which was 55 years old, began talks for the older synagogue to move into New Hyde Park and share the space. In July the creation of Temple Tikvah was finalized.

State Assemblyman Mark Weprin (D-Little Neck), a Temple Israel member, said he welcomed both the consolidation and meeting new worshipers.

"I think it made both shuls stronger," he said. "There is a unity into one happy family."

The celebration opened the new temple with a ceremony that honored religious tradition and promoted growth for the future.

Members removed Temple Emanuel's Torah scrolls from its ark and extinguished the temple's "Ner Tamid," or eternal lamp. The families then went outside the building and formed a circle under a huppah, a small, white canopy usually used for Jewish weddings, as the temple's new awning was revealed.

Rabbi Eric Stark, director of the New York Council for the nonprofit Union for Reform Judaism, said the circle served as the perfect symbol for the new synagogue.

"When a couple comes together, we say God dwells within them. When synagogues come together to be one, God dwells in them as well," he said.

The ceremony continued as the children and teen members of Temple Tikvah's youth group returned the scrolls to the ark and lit the shul's new Ner Tamid. After inducting the temple's new board of directors, Sheinberg unveiled a special scroll that states the synagogue's mission of peace and community enrichment.

Fishkin said her fellow administrators and members will be aiming to do community services for both worshipers and non-Jews in the area, with events like its interfaith Thanksgiving in November.

With a large opening of the new temple and the excitement still fresh on everyone's mind, Sheinberg said she was optimistic that the change will promote growth as time goes on.

"We really see this as a way to extend the tent of peace beyond the community," she said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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