Temple Beth Emeth (Ann Arbor, Mich.) records, 1966-2009 (majority within 1966-1995)
Using These Materials
- The record group is open to research.
- Temple Beth Emeth (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
- Reform Jewish temple located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Temple Beth Emeth shares facilities with St. Clare's Episcopal Church. Minutes of board and congregational meetings; publications include history of the temple and service bulletins; subject files relate to community involvement and issues; and visual materials.
- 10 linear feet
- Call Number:
- 00131 Ba 2
- Finding aid created by Temple Beth Emeth, 2000, and Michigan Historical Collections staff, 2006, 2011
- Scope and Content:
The records of Temple Beth Emeth document the founding and growth of the Ann Arbor reformed congregation. The records include minutes of board and congregational meetings; publications, including history of the temple and service bulletins; subject files relating to community involvement and issues; and photographs.
The record group has been separated into seven series: Administrative; Leadership; Temple Organizations; Topical files: History, Membership, and Miscellaneous; Congregational Life; Genesis and Audio-Visual.
- Biographical / Historical:
For many years, Beth Israel Synagogue, founded in 1916, was the only Jewish congregation in the Ann Arbor-Ypsilanti area. As such, it tried to fulfill the religious needs of all members. In 1966, Professor Ronald Tikofsky initiated a meeting in the hopes of establishing a Reform Jewish temple. Beginning with a small gathering in his home, in February 1966, and with help from the regional director of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), a preliminary steering committee was formed. Several community meetings were held. With Ron Tikofsky as president, the group began to formulate plans for religious worship and a religious education program. Beth Emeth, House of Truth, was chosen as the name for the new temple in the Ann Arbor community.
Temple Beth Emeth held its first services Friday August 19, 1966 at the Congregational Church on State and William Street, with Dr. Richard Hertz of Temple Beth El in Detroit as guest Rabbi. A Torah and prayer books were donated by members of that congregation.
With the opening of the Religious School in September, the Temple moved to the First Unitarian Church at 1917 Washtenaw Avenue. Services were held on a bi-weekly basis, and religious school convened on Saturday mornings. In the early years, services were conducted by Temple members or by guest rabbis in the region. Sermons were often delivered by community leaders or by the members themselves. For the first two years, Dr. Robert Katz, Professor at Hebrew Union College, Cincinnati, officiated at High Holy Day observances.
In 1968, Bruce S. Warshal was engaged as a senior rabbinical student to serve the Temple on a bi-weekly basis. The following year, after his ordination from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Rabbi Warshal agreed to serve as the first full time Rabbi of Temple Beth Emeth.
As the congregation grew from approximately thirty families in 1968 to almost 100 families over the next two years, it became necessary to relocate the religious school to larger accommodations. In the summer of 1970, an agreement was negotiated with the Ann Arbor Public Schools to rent Lawton Elementary School on Sunday mornings. The congregation was already holding weekly Friday evening services, alternating one week at the Unitarian Church and one week in the homes of members. By January, the Temple Board appropriated the extra funds required to rent the church for weekly Sabbath worship. Around this time the congregation began to realize other needs as well. A long range planning committee was formed to consider all options. In 1971, after extensive searching and much debate, the congregation leased the sanctuary of St. Clare's Episcopal Church at 2309 Packard Road, a development which was to have unusual and ecumenical ramifications for both groups.
After several years of leasing school facilities at Lawton, and renting St. Clare's for religious services, mid-week Hebrew school, and office space for the Rabbi, the congregation recognized the need for one building which could house all of the Temple's diverse functions. The Board initiated a capital fund-raising campaign. At the Temple Board meeting in June 1974, the Rev. Douglas Evett of St. Clare's came to invite "Temple Beth Emeth to join us in this place". Discussions with members of both congregations took several months and culminated in June 1975 with approval to form a corporation officially named Genesis of Ann Arbor. This arrangement, unique in the country at the time, defined the joint sharing and owning of a single facility by a Jewish and Christian congregation. A gala weekend dedication, preceded by the installation of the Star of David along side the Cross in front of the building on Packard Road was held on May 30-31, 1975. Newspapers throughout the country carried stories about this unique joint venture. The event was sufficiently newsworthy for the NBC evening news team to spend four days filming religious services and educational programs of the two congregations. A small portion of the film was seen on national television in the following week.
In the spring of 1975, Rabbi Warshal accepted an offer to become the spiritual leader of the prestigious Touro Synagogue in New Orleans. A search committee, aided by the UAHC regional director, and the placement director of the Central Conference of Rabbis (CCAR) considered a panel of candidates. That summer, Rabbi Ralph Mecklenburger, who had served as assistant Rabbi in San Francisco, became the second spiritual leader of Temple Beth Emeth.
The Genesis Agreement included a commitment to construct an addition to the church building for religious school classrooms, and to enlarge the existing social hall, with a new kitchen. The Temple launched a building campaign which included bingo games on Sunday evenings as one of its components. Ground was broken for the addition in September, 1977, and appropriately it was the children of both congregations who shoveled the first sod. The new facility was formally dedicated on the weekend of November 11-12, 1978 with a special religious school service on Shabbat morning, and a joint Genesis reception on Saturday evening in the new social hall.
In 1983 when Rabbi Mecklenburger was selected as an assistant Rabbi for Beth El, a large congregation in Fort Worth, Texas, once again the CCAR and UAHC staff aided a search committee in the selection of a new Rabbi. Robert D. Levy, then Assistant Rabbi of Temple Israel in Columbus, Ohio, was chosen as Beth Emeth's third spiritual leader. In the interim between December 1983 and Rabbi Levy's arrival in April 1984, the congregation engaged Rabbi Richard Hertz, then retired from Temple Beth El, Detroit, to conduct services on a part-time basis. Members of the Temple carried out the necessary functions, including leading services in this period. Despite the fact that the Ann Arbor community now offered several alternatives for religious affiliation (Beth Israel Congregation, Orthodox Minyan, Chabad and Jewish Cultural Society), the membership of Temple Beth Emeth continued to grow. Once again, space became an issue. Some members of the temple were concerned with the disparity of size between TBE and St. Clare's, and the differing building use needs.
Long range planning efforts were launched in 1986, and again in 1988. A master plan and program developed by Anderson-Jacobs, an architectural firm was considered but not approved. In 1990, under the leadership of Dannemiller and Tyson, a local consulting group, the Temple launched a long range planning process which they called TBE 2000. The conclusion of this very intensive process was that the congregation supported Genesis, and would make plans to enlarge the facility for both congregations. The architectural firm of Hilberry Associates was hired to design a major building renovation. At their annual "Erev" Thanksgiving service, November 23, 1994, Temple Beth Emeth and St. Clare's officially dedicated the new building which included a new sanctuary, a religious school classroom wing, a new social hall and kitchen, offices and a small Jewish chapel. CNN filmed the service and showed a small clip in their news coverage on Thanksgiving day.
Beginning with the joint Thanksgiving service in 1999, St. Clare's and Temple Beth Emeth launched a year of celebration to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Genesis Agreement. Joint activities included a musical performance by the combined choirs of each congregation, the annual dessert Seder, a Genesis publication, and the building of a Habitat for Humanity House in Ann Arbor. The highlight of the year occurred on May 21, 2000. Beginning with a ceremony of commemoration with clergy of both congregations, Rabbi Bruce Warshal, the first Rabbi, and Bishop Wendell Gibbs participating, everyone gathered for a picnic on the front lawn, indicated their continuing commitment to Genesis by signing a plaque, and then enjoyed a concert by the Gemini Brothers in the sanctuary.
This history is an abbreviated version of a document found in the Archives folder of this record group. More detailed information about the temple may be found in the history edited by Linda Vanek and Rose Vainstein entitled Temple Beth Emeth: The First Fifteen Years, 1966-1981 (1982) found in the records of Temple Beth Emeth.
- Acquisition Information:
- The records were deposited by Temple Beth Emeth (Donor no. 6743 ) in August 2000. Additional records were received in 2005 and 2011.
Click on terms below to find any related finding aids on this site.
Jews -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
Synagogues -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
Jews -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
Demonstrations -- Michigan -- Ann Arbor.
Temple Beth Emeth (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Genesis Corporation (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
St. Clare of Assisi Episcopal Church (Ann Arbor, Mich.)
Pierce, Edward, 1930-
Wheeler, Albert Harold, 1915-1994.
- Ann Arbor (Mich.) -- Religion.
Using These Materials
The record group is open to research.
- USE & PERMISSIONS:
Donor(s) have not transferred any applicable copyright to the Regents of the University of Michigan. Patrons are responsible for determining the appropriate use or reuse of materials.
- PREFERRED CITATION:
[item], folder, box, Temple Beth Emeth (Ann Arbor, Mich.) Records, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan