Our History

Man holding shovel during groundbreaking ceremony for Temple Or Elohim 1964Establishing a Reform Jewish congregation in the Jericho area, where almost all the Jewish residents were from orthodox or conservative backgrounds,would prove to be a daunting task to the handful of families who first proposed this idea early in 1957.

Twenty-three families met on March 19, 1957 at the Robert Seaman School, and with guidance from the New York Federation of Reform Synagogues, a resolution was passed establishing a Reform Jewish congregation and Mr. Charles Morgenstern was elected president pro-tem. On April 11, fifty congregants as well as potential congregants gathered at the home of Otto Babik and the name Temple Or-Elohim, “Light of God” was chosen.

In May the first official congregational meeting was held in a model home in the East Birchwood development at which time a constitution was adopted and Charles Morgenstern was elected our first president.

Friday evening services were initially held in the homes of various members. The first High Holiday services took place in an unoccupied store in the Birchwood Shopping Center. For six weeks services were conducted at the East Norwich Community Church and then in an office building in Hicksville. Noise from trains passing by made that location unusable so for the next two years services were held in members’ homes, a model home and in another empty store.

A temporary home was established at the Jericho Country Club as the congregation sought a permanent location. A site found on Route 106 near the Jericho Cider Mill was passed over due to opposition from the Muttontown Zoning Board. However, in March 1960, the 3.65 acre parcel of land we now occupy was purchased and on August 28, 1960 the cornerstone of the building was placed in position.

The new structure, though modest in size was enormous in its meaning. It rooted the congregation and served as a base for future growth. Expansion of the building began in August of 1965, and the new structure was officially dedicated on December 17, 1965.

The history of our temple however, is more than buildings. It is the dedication of those many special women and men who came together a half century ago, and all the others who have joined them in the ensuing years to meet the needs of a growing Jewish community. It is their dedication and personal conviction which has brought us to the place we are today.

Making the Move from CRT to Temple Or Elohim, a Community Reform Congregation

People standing in front of Temple Or Elohim holding US and Israel flagsIn March of 1975, CRT moved from its home at the time on Ellison Ave. to the location it has occupied for 44 years. At the time, we marked that occasion by carrying the Torahs and walking to our new home. As we join together with Temple Or Elohim, we once again have removed the Torahs from the Ark and with our flags, brought them to Temple Or Elohim. We officially made our move to Temple Or Elohim on Sunday June 30. Congregants gathered in the Sanctuary one last time for a brief ceremony. Rabbi Judy removed the Torahs from the Ark one last time and gave a brief explanation of the proper way to hold and carry it, and then said the following:

“We are about to join a new entity, a new congregation made from two old formidable souls that have come together to create a marvelous new congregation that will be reinvigorated, that will be able to reach even further into the Jewish community of Nassau and Suffolk counties and we all should be very, very excited about that prospect. So today is the beginning of a celebration and I pray that celebration lasts generations.”

Congregants standing with flags and Torahs in new templeAfter reciting a brief prayer, we sang the Shema, and began the procession out of the sanctuary. We exited the building and walked up the Plain Road to the CVS parking lot in Westbury.
We then drove to Merry Lane in Jericho, and continued the procession to Temple Or Elohim. TOE members greeted us in the sanctuary where Rabbi Judy gave a few blessings. Then after saying HaMotzi, the unification began with a Shwarma lunch.