The story of Temple Beth Tikvah is the story of 40 years of commitment to Jewish ideas and values on the shoreline of Connecticut. Today, we are a synagogue with a membership of nearly 300 families who come from greater than 10 area communities. Our congregants have diverse ways of identifying and living as Jews yet our individual spiritual needs are met with caring, concern and meaningful religious experiences from High Holy Day worship to Shabbat. Our children are part of a lively Religious School and participate in an educational program which enriches their Jewish identities, knowledge and practice preparing them for lifelong Jewish participation. We enjoy rich adult educational programs.
The story of our synagogue began with the formation of the Shoreline Jewish Community Organization (SJCO) in l970. Early services were held in members’ homes creating intimate connections among the families. Over the next several years, as the number of participants grew, Shabbat services were held in a variety of places in Madison and Guilford, and regular Friday services were conducted by lay leaders who transported a portable ark and prayer books to the services.
Religious school classes began in 1970 with 10 students, ages 6 – 12 years old, who met in a single class at the Madison Community Center. The number of students quickly grew to 75 and classes were held at the Mercy School and Unitarian Church in Madison.
The early years of the SJCO were exhilarating and challenging as members debated the benefits of affiliating with a specific movement within Judaism, hiring a rabbi and building a permanent home. The minutes of an April 1974 meeting reflect the reasons why the core membership wanted their own temple and a rabbi: a need to “feel at home within our community.” The SJCO membership included families whose backgrounds reflected all of the movements of Judaism yet in 1975, it was decided that SJCO would become a member of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (currently the Union for Reform Judaism, URJ).
At this same time, with a congregation of about 100 families, the SJCO decided to construct its own sanctuary. In 1975, land was purchased, and in April 1976, the decision was made to call the new synagogue Temple Beth Tikvah, House of Hope, reflecting the dreams and aspirations of this fledgling group. The building that currently houses Temple Beth Tikvah was dedicated at Shabbat services on Friday May 13, 1977 where Rabbi Malcolm Stern ZT"L, a noted historian of American Jews, spoke about “Jewish Pioneers in Connecticut.”
1976 - 1981
In April 1976, the SJCO hired Rabbi David Wortman, ZT”L. During Rabbi Wortman’s tenure, TBT began monthly family Shabbat services, published its first Shofar (temple newsletter, 1976), began the Temple Beth Tikvah Nursery School (1978) and made arrangements for a Jewish Cemetery at the Beaverbrook Cemetery in Clinton, CT.
1982 - 2008
In 1982, Rabbi Howard Sommer became the second spiritual leader of Temple Beth Tikvah. Over Rabbi Sommer’s 26 year tenure, TBT grew to over 300 member households, saw the religious school double in size and added a major addition to the synagogue building (1986) which includes a Judaic library. It is during this time that TBT grew into its current identity as the home for Jews on the Shoreline of Connecticut. Rabbi Sommer was instrumental in creating close bonds between TBT and the local communities, advocating that public schools be closed on the High Holy Days and developing ongoing interfaith programs for adults and children. On June 30, 2008, Rabbi Sommer resigned his position at Temple Beth Tikvah in order to pursue a new career path. Upon his retirement from TBT, Rabbi Sommer was awarded the title of Rabbi Emeritus.
2008 - 2009
Rabbi Thomas Alpert joined Temple Beth Tikvah in July 2008 as our interim rabbi. Rabbi Alpert led us through an examination of our history, purpose and identity as a community.
2009 - 2012
From July 2009 through June 2012, Rabbi Claudio Kogan led our congregation sharing his rich heritage as an Argentinian born Jew. He encouraged the exploration of new ideas and teaching strategies in our religious school.
2012 - present
Rabbi Stacy Offner joined TBT in July 2012. A rabbi with a passion for people, she states that “I believe that God is profoundly present in our interactions with others, particularly during times of transition. I love engaging people through Judaism so human beings can feel support, growth, purpose, belonging and connectedness. I love to build community through teaching, worship, music, informal events, counseling and social justice efforts.”
Rabbi Offner’s has ushered in a period of growth and renewal of the congregation and our spiritual, educational, social justice and social programs. She brings together our diverse community around the ideals of Jewish community. She is our spiritual guide, teacher and a true partner in leadership as we grow towards our future.
Commitment to Cantorial Leadership and Strong Musical Programming
Throughout most of TBT’s history, we relied on cantorial soloists and student cantors to provide the musical component of our synagogue life. In 2005, after enjoying her services as a student cantor, TBT hired Cantor Dorothy Goldberg as our first permanent, part-time cantor. Cantor Goldberg provided musical and spiritual programming as well as educational opportunities. After 9 years, Cantor Goldberg left TBT’s clergy in June 2010. Today, she remains a member of the congregation and a strong friend to our community.
In July 2013, Cantor Kevin A. Margolius was hired as our Cantor Educator. Cantor Margolius has brought transformational change to our Religious School. His musical presence on our bimah enriches our spiritual lives.
Today’s TBT is a vibrant Reform synagogue. Included in our membership are nearly 150 member households who are "chai" members (over 18 years of membership), many young families, singles, interfaith and LGBTQ families.
Over the last three years, the Board has envisioned and implemented the first stages of a long range plan. As we approach the Fortieth Anniversary of the synagogue’s dedication, we have embarked on plans to renovate the building and to build our endowment so as to sustain us well into the future.
Today one can only imagine, or better yet speak to one of our founders, to understand the investments of time and resources, and the leaps of faith in our destiny and in one another, that it took to first create TBT, and then to make it thrive. We are moving toward our fourth decade and happy to have three generations of TBT families. Over the years, stewardship of the financial and physical assets of TBT has been exemplary. Now is the time for another period of transformational investment that both preserves the creation of our founders and inspires the current generation to make a mark on the TBT community.
We hope you enjoyed this journey through TBT's first forty years. As a part of the TBT community, you are helping to write more history every day!