A Concise History of Temple Beth Israel


Mr. Novak, a dry goods merchant on Lawrence Avenue, discussed the idea of a new temple with Mr. Tannenbaum in front of his delicatessen on Kedzie Avenue. Tannenbaum gave Novak $5.00 towards the rental of a hall for High Holidays.

September, 1917

First High Holiday Service at Kimball Hall at Lawrence & Kimball.

October, 1917

Meeting to decide if first Jewish organization in northwest Chicago would be orthodox or reform. As a result of that meeting, a group formed Temple Beth Israel, but a small splinter group, fiercely opposed to reform Judaism, later formed the first orthodox congregation in the neighborhood, Beth Itzchok.

November, 1917

Founding meeting presided over by Rabbi S. Cohon (Washington Boulevard Temple): Name “Temple Beth Israel” adopted and charter members enrolled.

Rabbi Ungerleider hired as a part time Rabbi for Friday nights and Sunday School (40 children enrolled).

Sisterhood Temple Beth Israel founded with 35 members.

December, 1917

First Bazaar in Hollywood Barn on Kedzie Avenue.

January, 1918

Terminal Hall, 3304 W. Lawrence Avenue, rented for Sunday School and Friday night worship.

Feb. 1918

Decision made to buy land on Sawyer Avenue across from Hibbard School to build temple.

May 8, 1918

First Sisterhood Installation of Officers held at Terminal Hall.

First Installation of Officers

May 19, 1918

First confirmation at Terminal Hall.

New hall rented at 4718 N. Kedzie next to a pool room for worship and school.

Anna and Charles Benjamin donated the Temple’s first Torah.

June 1918

Rabbi Ungerleider unable to continue; Mr. Julian Gusfield, an ordained Rabbi who earned his living as a traveling salesman, substituted temporarily.

Formal dinner held at Edgewater Beach Hotel to raise money to build permanent facility (first of many fundraising events).

Jan 25, 1919

First Annual Reception and Ball of Temple Beth Israel Sisterhood.

May 1919

Rabbi Felix S. Mendelsohn, recommended to the congregation by Rabbi Cohon, traveled to Chicago to give a guest sermon.

July 9, 1919

First Annual Temple Picnic.

July 15, 1919

Rabbi Mendelsohn, elected first full time Rabbi, arrived in Chicago.

Aug. 1919

New hall rented at 4812 N. Kedzie for worship and school.

Sept. 15, 1919

Temple Center, first northwest side Jewish social center for young adults, is founded at Temple Beth Israel by Rabbi Mendelsohn.

Sept. 1919

Purchased first 60 feet of land at Bernard and Ainslie; 4850 N. Bernard Street.


Membership grew to 175 families with 80 children in the school.

Emma Sonnenshine Roe hired to organize volunteer choir. She remained until 1928 and was followed by a number of Choir Directors and Cantors.

April 1920

First issue of Temple Beth Israel Bulletin, called the Temple Beth Israel Review, designed by Abe Becker.

May 1920

Purchased second 60 feet of land at Bernard and Ainslie.

Oct. 4, 1920

First Simchat Torah Party and Ark built by Charles Benjamin is dedicated (still in use).


Kipot purchased and placed in basket at worship services in effort to make traditional members more comfortable.

April 23, 1921

First congregational seder.

Sept. 21, 1921

New hall rented at 4818 N. Kedzie for worship and school.

Oct. 22, 1922

Community Hall cornerstone laid for first phase of construction at Bernard and Ainslie. Speakers included: Judge Hugo Pam, Judge Henry Horner and Rabbi Samuel Cohon.

April 20, 1923

Community Hall at Bernard and Ainslie dedicated. Procession of Torahs from 4818 N. Kedzie to 4850 N. Bernard.

Sept. 23, 1923

Arthur Sommerfield observed his Bar Mitzvah at Temple Beth Israel. First Bar Mitzvah at a Reform Congregation in greater Chicago area.

Feb. 1924

Brotherhood founded as “TBI Men’s Club”.


National Jewish Book Week founded by Rabbi Mendelsohn which later became the Jewish Book Month.

Sept. 7, 1928

Dedication Service of new School Building, held on Friday night. School Building was erected adjoining Community Hall as second phase of construction at Bernard and Ainslie. Dr. A.M. Dushkin spoke on behalf of the Board of Jewish Education and Dr. Felix a. Levy delivered the sermon.

Total debt from School Building and Community Hall amounted to $85,000.

Nov. 10, 1929

First Annual Education Dinner called the “Silver Plate Educational Dinner” held at the Gold Room of the Congress Hotel with 225 present and guest speaker Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver of Cleveland.

Nov. 27, 1932

Fourth Annual Education Dinner held at the Blackstone also commemorated Temple Beth Israel’s 15th Anniversary with guest speaker Abraham Sachar, Founder and National Director of Hillel Foundation.

Nov. 5, 1933

Fifth Annual Education Dinner held at the Drake Hotel with Rabbi Solomon B. Freehof as the speaker.

Nov. 18, 1934

Sixth Annual Education Dinner held at the Covenant Club with guest speaker, Dr. Steven Wise.


Temple reduced Hebrew instruction from 4 days a week to 2 days a week.


John A. Schur chartered Cub Scout and Boy Scout troops at Temple; which continue today.

Nov. 27, 1938

Tenth Annual Education Dinner held at the Palmer House with 300 guests for “Dream of a Second Story.”


25th Anniversary of Temple Beth Israel – 350 children in Sunday School.

TBI Graduates

July 1, 1947

Rabbi Ernst M. Lorge elected Associate Rabbi.

Oct. 17, 1947

Rabbi Lorge installed as Associate Rabbi. Sermon given by Rabbi Samuel Cohon professor at Hebrew Union College who installed Rabbi Mendelsohn in 1919 and recommended Rabbi Lorge to Temple Beth Israel.

Dec. 5, 1947

Rabbi Mendelsohn honored on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of National Jewish Book Week which he founded.


Rabbi Lorge introduced the celebration of all holidays on the actual Jewish calendar day and summer services.

Membership grew to 350 families with 500 children in the school.

April 11, 1948

30th Anniversary Celebration held in the grand ballroom of the Hotel Stevens.

'48 Confirmation Class

March 11, 1949

Rabbi Lorge introduced the Bat Mitzvah observance. first Bat Mitzvah Elayne Shapiro Dunn.

April 17, 1949

The second story Sanctuary in the rough dedicated.

Oct. 23, 1950

Young marrieds group formed at Rabbi Lorge’s home.

Nov. 23, 1951

First Shabbat Service held in the new Sanctuary with Rabbi Samuel Cohon as the guest speaker.

Dec. 2, 1951

The Community dedication of the new Sanctuary featured then Governor Adlai E. Stevenson.


Temple Juniors (high school youth group) founded.

Rabbi Lorge along with three other Rabbis founds Union Institute in Oconomowoc, WI. Temple Beth Israel supports the camp with money and several congregants serve on the camp’s first board.

Sept. 5, 1952

Theodore W. David passed away; served as President of Temple Beth Israel for 9 years (1921-1930).

Sept. 19, 1952

First High Holiday with two concurrent services held in the lower (600) and upper (1,000) Sanctuaries on Bernard Street.

Oct. 17, 1952

Friday night service honored Rabbi Mendelsohn’s 35 years of service and Rabbi Lorge’s honorable discharge from the service as a Chaplain. Rabbi Mendelsohn officially named Senior Rabbi and Rabbi Lorge officially given title of Rabbi.

Oct. 26, 1952

Dedication of stained glass windows in the Sanctuary.

Nov. 3, 1952

Institute for Adult Jewish Education founded at Temple Beth Israel with an enrollment of 100 students.

Feb. 27, 1953

Rabbi Felix S. Mendelsohn passed away while on sabbatical in California.

March 20, 1953

Felix S. Mendelsohn Memorial Fund established and Community Hall renamed the “Rabbi S. Felix Mendelsohn Memorial Hall.”


Membership grew to 600 families with over 700 children enrolled in the school. Temple could not accommodate all students, so three divisions of Religious School were created; one on Saturday, one on Sunday in the Temple and another one on Sunday in the Deborah Boys Club.

Sept. 10, 1955

First Slichot service held with creative service written by Rabbi Lorge and guest Cantor Pavel Slavensky.

June 15, 1956

Cantor Irving Zummer appointed Cantor.

Jan. 1957

Campaign to raise money to pay off mortgage stalls. Committee resolves to visit every member in their homes.

May 26, 1957

40th Anniversary Celebration included Mortgage burning.

Dec. 8, 1957

Twenty-ninth Annual Education Dinner held in the Grand Ballroom of the Palmer House honored Rabbi Lorge for his ten years at Temple Beth Israel.


Membership grew to over 750 families with almost 1,000 children enrolled in the school. One of the largest Sunday and Hebrew Schools in the city and the length of Hebrew School studies increased from 4 years of study to 5 years.

Fall 1960

Facilities rented at East Prairie Public School in Skokie where Religious School and Hebrew School classes were held for members who had moved into northern suburbs.

May 1, 1961

Dr. Arnold Cohn purchased land in Skokie at Howard and Crawford and offered it to the congregation interest free based on Rabbi Lorge’s idea of a “Satellite School”.

May 16, 1962

Cornerstone laid for the “Branch” at 3939 Howard Street. US Senator Paul Douglas guest speaker; also present County Commissioner Seymour Simon (long time member of Temple Beth Israel).

July 6, 1962

Judy Karzen hired as Music Director upon resignation of Cantor Zummer.

Feb. 10, 1963

Branch School dedication with Federal Judge James B. Parsons as guest speaker. School met at both Temple and Branch.

Board passes resolution that no worship services can be held at Branch on regular basis. Membership closed at 800 families with over 1,000 children enrolled in the school.

June 17, 1963

Rabbi Lorge invited to the White House by President John F. Kennedy to discuss national civil rights problems – one of several meetings and marches in which he participated, including mediating between Mayor Richard J. Daley and Dick Gregory during the Chicago riots.

April 18, 1966

First Temple Beth Israel trip to Israel (2 weeks).

May 14/15, 1966

First Art Fair.

June 11, 1967

Testimonial Dinner and Shabbat service honored Rabbi Lorge on the occasion of his 25th years in the Rabbinate and conferring Doctor of Divinity from Hebrew Union College with Rabbi Balfur Brickner and Rabbi Donald Splansky as guest speakers.

April 27, 1968

50th Anniversary Jubilee Banquet at Great Hall in the Pick Congress Hotel with then Lt. Governor of Illinois, Samuel H. Shapiro as guest speaker.

Jan. 1969

Combined Adult Education program launched with 3 other congregations.

Nov. 18, 1971

Sidney I. Cole, long time Temple Beth Israel member, elected National President of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations.

Fall 1976

Temple Menorah merged its schools with Temple Beth Israel and students attended together at our buildings. This merger continued for approximately 5 years.

May 27, 1977

Ben Shahn tapestry entitled “Candelabrum” dedicated in memory of Maxwell E. Glicken, long time member. Tapestry was chosen partially because it was transportable should Bernard Street ever be sold.

April 29, 1978

Forty-ninth Annual Education Dinner held in the Guild Hall of the Ambassador West Hotel, commemorated 60th Anniversary.

Aug 4, 1978

Rabbi Gary Gerson hired as assistant to Rabbi Lorge.

Sept. 1978

Temple Beth Israel opens Deerfield “Satellite School” (operated through 1982).

May 11, 1979

Rabbi Lorge introduced Adult Bar and Bat Mitzvahs. Benn J. Leland and Zelda Leland first Adult bar and Bat Mitzvahs.

Aug 1, 1980

Rabbi Samuel Gordon hired as Assistant to Rabbi Lorge.

Dec 1980

Tree of Life sculpture affixed to wall in lobby of the main Sanctuary donated by Cohn family.

Dec. 14, 1980

Board of Trustees approved sale of Bernard Street Temple to Korean Methodist Church which approached congregation.

July 10, 1981

Last Shabbat Service at Bernard Street Temple. Service ended with removal of Torahs by past presidents, turning off Ner Tamid and charge by Rabbi Lorge.

July 12, 1981

Dedication of new Sanctuary at 3939 Howard Street in Skokie (included construction of Rabbi’s study, library, enlarged kitchen and office space) with guest speaker Skokie Mayor Albert J. Smith. Procession of Torahs from Albany Park to Skokie.

Oct. 8, 1981

Yom Kippur Services held at The Lincoln Village Theater. First worship service held outside of 4850 Bernard Street in almost 60 years.

March 7, 1983

Fire in Howard Street building destroyed entire lower level including storage.

April 17, 1983

Fifty-fourth Annual Education Dinner held at the Highland Park Country Club, honored Sylvia Kaplan for her 32 years of service to Temple Beth Israel as executive secretary.

May 5, 1984

First Bid ‘n Buy.

June 3, 1984

Rabbi Lorge honored at tribute dinner held at The Standard Club on the occasion of his retirement as Senior Rabbi and for his 37 years of service to Temple Beth Israel with guest speaker Rabbi Gunther Plaut.

June 30, 1984

Rabbi Lorge became Rabbi Emeritus.

July 1, 1984

Rabbi Frederick L. Wenger elected Rabbi of Temple Beth Israel.

May 18, 1986

The Lorge Pavilion built by Temple Beth Israel at Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute in honor of Rabbi Ernst and Eudice Lorge is dedicated.

Feb. 8, 1987

Congregation voted to terminate discussions of merger with Temple Judea Mizpah.

July 1, 1987

Rabbi Michael A. Weinberg elected Rabbi.

Dec. 11, 1988

Congregation voted to sell building at 3939 Howard Street to either a Korean Baptist Church or Jewish Orthodox Girls School, both of which approached congregation and to purchase building at 3601 Dempster.

Jan. 1989

Building Fund campaign begins to raise money for Dempster Street Temple.

May 15, 1989

Construction begins on Dempster Street Temple.

Sept. 15, 1989

Last Shabbat Service at Howard Street Temple. Service ended with removal of Torahs by past presidents, turning off Ner Tamid and charge by Rabbis.

Sept. 17, 1989

Procession of Torahs from 3939 Howard Street to 3601 Dempster Street and Dedication of new building.

Sept. 22, 1989

First Shabbat worship at Dempster Street Temple. Lower Atrium Level and Social Hall completed. Half of school level under construction.

Dec. 24, 1989

Flood at Dempster Street Temple filled entire 5,000 square foot basement, floor to ceiling. Flood destroyed all records, entire library, countless prayer books and ritual objects and 5 Torahs. Congregation uses temporary space at Solomon Schechter School, Skokie valley Traditional and Cole-Taylor Bank Building.

Feb. 24, 1990

Rabbi Ernst M. Lorge passed away.

May 1990

Rabbi Weinberg introduced expanded celebration of Shavout, including study sessions, discussions and worship.

Aug 1990

Rabbi Weinberg elected National President of CAJE (Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education)

Dec. 1992

Money raised for construction of Dempster Street Sanctuary in memory of Rabbi Lorge.

Jan. 1993

Ritual Committee introduced gender sensitive liturgy and Board of Trustees voted to use gender sensitive prayer book on trial basis.

Jan. 29, 1993

Shabbat Worship Service commemorating the 75th Anniversary; speaker: Rabbi Donald M. Splansky.

Jan. 30, 1993

Family Festival commemorating the 75th Anniversary.

Oct. 1993

Construction and Dedication of Rabbi Ernst M. Lorge Sanctuary.

Installation and Dedication of Lorge Sanctuary stained glass windows.

Sept. 1993

Midrasha Community High School program created and other congregations invited to participate.

Sept. 1994

Dedication of Rabbi Felix Mendelsohn Hall.

March 1995

Shushan Café the first Purim Spiel is produced. 10 biennial productions follow.

June 1996

Michael M. Lorge honored for 13 years as Temple Educator.

July 1996

Lori Sagarin is hired as full time Temple Educator.


Successful 5th Generation Campaign reduces construction loan.

Sept. 1999

Stained glass installed and dedicated in first floor atrium.

June 2000

Koleynu a new volunteer choir is formed in the tradition of previous volunteer choirs at TBI.

March 2000

Dedication of Elmer and Fanny or Fannie (sp?) Morris Family Kiddush Room.

Sept. 2003

Installation and Dedication of Sanctuary doors created by artist Richard Bitterman.

Aug. 2003

Kabbalat Shabbat worship is instituted on first Shabbat of the month.

June 2003

Rabbi Michael A. Weinberg celebrates 20 years as Rabbi of Temple.

Feb. 2004

Rabbi Felix Mendelsohn Hall is remodeled.

Sept. 2005

eBulletin to electronically notify members of activities is launched.

July 2005

Chalutzim Chapel at Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute dedicated in honor of Rabbi Michael and Jody Weinberg.

March 2006

Two Torahs are purchased; one in honor of Rabbi Michael Weinberg and one to replace the Lodz Torah Rabbi Lorge brought from Europe.

Sept. 2006

Emergency relief community campaign organized to fill two truckloads with supplies and food for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

March 2006

Rabbi Michael A. Weinberg celebrates 25 years in Rabbinate and receives the honorary degree of doctor of divinity.

Dec. 2007

Lori Sagarin is installed as president of NATE.

Jan. 2008

Temple Beth Israel celebrates its 90th year with “Still Going and Still Growing Experience.”


Pin It on Pinterest