Temple Israel was organized during the summer of 1941. In barely 60 days, from the first organizational meeting to the first High Holiday services led by Rabbi Leon Fram, nearly 600 members chose to affiliate with our new congregation. From its inception, the aim of the Temple has been to revive many of the symbols and traditions of Jewish heritage and establish them within a Reform setting. We were the first Reform congregation in this area to introduce a cantor to the service, to revive the tradition of Bar and Bat Mitzvah. We hold a daily morning minyan and regard wearing of a kippah as a matter of personal choice.
For our first nine years, we met in the auditorium of the Detroit Institute of Arts. Our first Sanctuary, in the Palmer Park area of Detroit, opened in 1950 and was home for 30 years. Cantor Tullman was our first cantor from 1941 until his death in 1960. Rabbi M. Robert Syme joined the Temple in 1953 to help meet the needs of the steadily growing congregation. He was joined by Cantor Harold Orbach in 1962 and by Rabbi Harold Loss in 1970. With the movement of the area’s Jewish Community towards the northwest suburbs, it became necessary to build a new Sanctuary, where we remain today, on Walnut Lake Road. Opened in 1980 and expanded in 1989, the move to our new home in West Bloomfield also saw the arrival of Rabbi Paul Yedwab in 1986.
Our Temple family has grown considerably, with our membership currently at 3,400 families and over 12,000 members. Our clergy has also grown to meet the many ongoing needs of our community. Rabbi Joshua Bennett joined our pulpit in 1995, Rabbi Marla Hornsten joined in the summer of 2000, Neil Michaels joined us as our Cantorial Soloist in the winter of 2002, Rabbi Jennifer Kaluzny and Cantor Michael Smolash arrived in June of 2004, and Rabbi Jennifer Lader joined us in July of 2012.
We consider our clergy an important part of our history. Our founder, Rabbi Fram, died in 1987, at the age of 92, Cantor Orbach died the spring of 2014, at the age of 83 and our beloved Rabbi Syme died in March of 2003, just short of his 83rd birthday. Rabbis Harold Loss, Paul Yedwab, Josh Bennett, Marla Hornsten, Jennifer Kaluzny, and Jennifer Lader, Cantor Michael Smolash and Cantor Neil Michaels all remain actively involved in the life of the Temple. We feel this sense of continuity, of familiarity and warmth running from generation to generation between congregation and clergy, is very closely linked to the core of this Temple’s identity.