The ornate wooden podium that stood center stage on the bimah of Temple Beth-El’s magnificent chapel for more than 50 years, but had been relegated as a display piece in the temple museum, has been beautifully refurbished and will be rededicated and relocated to its former place of honor during the Erev Shabbat Service on Friday, April 7, at 7 p.m.
After years as a showpiece in the museum, the completely refurbished podium will once again serve Temple Beth-El, thanks to the Crisses family. In honor of their children and in support of our holy community, congregants Abby and Andy Crisses generously arranged to have the podium restored and returned to the chapel.
“We always felt a special connection to the chapel, which is where the podium had been,” said Abby and Andy Crisses. “During a major capital improvement campaign for Temple Beth-El in the late ’90s, we chose to endow the podium as part of that project. It was especially meaningful to us, as both of our children, Alexander and Amanda, had become Bar and Bat Mitzvah at that podium.”
For four decades, from 1930 to 1971, Rabbi Jacob Philip Rudin addressed congregants from the historic podium, built during the construction of the chapel—now known as the Rudin Chapel—under his rabbinate. A towering figure during his tenure at Temple Beth-El, Rabbi Rudin established Great Neck’s first temple as a leading synagogue in the American Jewish community. The podium carries a great legacy.
“Knowing that the podium represented an important part of Temple Beth-El history, as it was the platform where Rabbi Rudin gave many of his inspiring sermons as head rabbi of our congregation, we were hoping that it could once again be used by the congregation,” they said. “We knew that the lectern had been replaced and that the podium was not being used, and we were hopeful that a new life could be found for it.”
After speaking with the temple’s current rabbi, Rabbi A. Brian Stoller, it was brought to their attention that the podium needed some refurbishment. The work was supervised and the restoration completed under the direction of Rabbi Stoller and Executive Director Stuart Botwinick. The Crisses family was honored to fund the process.
“We have had a relationship with Temple Beth-El for more than 40 years,” noted the couple. “Our children attended Hebrew school there; they became Bar and Bat Mitzvah there. Rabbi Jerome Davidson and Cantor Lisa Hest presided over both of our children’s weddings, and they were there when we celebrated the births of each of our five grandchildren. Rabbis Tara and Meir Feldman and Cantor Adam Davis were there for us during our family losses. We have always enjoyed the beauty and sanctity of the High Holy Days services, under the guidance of all the clergy, as well as the joy of Shabbat and holiday services, and the power of yizkor services.”
The temple family is grateful for the continued support of the Crisses family, which previously also endowed a stained-glass window in the chapel.
“Temple Beth-El is a focal point for the life of a family, as it grows and evolves and experiences different life cycles,” the couple explained. “You realize that the temple is a source of education for children and adults, a forum to share and celebrate joys and milestones, and a platform for reassurance and guidance during times of sorrow. Celebrating Shabbat, experiencing the holidays through song and prayer, and furthering Jewish study only enrich a family.”
The community is welcome to attend the rededication of the refurbished podium on Friday, April 7, at 7 p.m. Temple Beth-El, the peninsula’s first synagogue, which was founded in 1928, is located at 5 Old Mill Rd. in Great Neck. To learn more, call 516-487-0900, visit www.tbegreatneck.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Submitted by the
Temple of Beth-El of Great Neck