A Founders’ Tea was held at Marianne Ferguson’s house on November 10, 2013. The following founding members attended the tea: Roselle Green, Jack Baig, Morris Strug, Gertrude Shane, Miriam Goldberg, Leonard Goldberg, and Marianne Ferguson. It was a festive occasion, and the founding members happily shared their experiences with us and took us back in time.
When the shul was first formed, according to Roselle, “...there was such an outpouring of giving - if you look at all of the things on the bima they were personal gifts to the congregation - members gave willingly. There is a list of who gave what in the synagogue.” Gertrude added that “... items that were bought in silver and brass were purchased with advice and are all art pieces bought through the Jewish museum, everything has a history - the first torah was donated by the Cappells. The ark was from the Heinish’s in honour of their son Morton killed in the war, the back wall and copper enamel were done by Jewish artists - done with love.”
Roselle Green stressed how important ‘community’ was to her and her family:
We did so many things together. In the 50’s your community was Jewish. Today you can have non-Jewish friends and no connection to Jews. Back then we had a lot of fun as a Jewish community. Women’s League National gave us musical programs - Jewish stories set to Broadway songs - that was our social life.
Leo (Green), Saul (Green), Nate (Green) and Leonard (Goldberg) were in tutus in a ballet one year.
Marianne Ferguson also spoke about the social life of the synagogue:
After we joined the shul there was so much togetherness, everyone went to the meetings, didn’t want to miss so you’d know what was going on. Mrs. Koch, Celia Fried’s mother was in charge of the kitchen and always asked me to help. Eventually I took that over and really enjoyed it. Everyone was your friend - everyone was so together and that’s what I liked about the Shaar.
When speaking about Volunteerism, Gertrude Shane noted that “you volunteered, no one had to ask.” And Marianne added “...whenever anyone asked at the Women’s League meetings to do things, everyone wanted to help.” And Morris Strug added “I worked painting the kitchen, putting in kitchen floor, built an ark.”
There was a lively discussion about women not being a part of a minyan (the Shaar became officially egalitarian in January 1982) and sometimes there was difficulties in getting a minyan. Here are Leonard Goldberg’s comments:
I like to look back at the beginning of Shaar - women not counted in minyans, difficulty keeping doors open, rabbis came and went, and sometimes we were in financial difficulty. I remember days when we had a problem getting a minyan. Two people we called were Sid Jakin and Lawrence Ferguson. Over the years in a way it is a miracle that we kept going, membership was down , competition was high, and it was hard to keep a rabbi. Through the capable women at Shaar, they made us what we are today - so we became a recognized synagogue.
One Shabbat morning Shirley Sherman and I were at synagogue and eight men were waiting for a minyan. Shirley and I looked at each other. She was a real feminist. We were so insulted, they looked at us like we didn’t count for anything , things started after that.
Jack Baig spoke of his reasons for joining the Shaar Shalom.
I am a small town Jew. In Amherst there was no synagogue, rabbi, Hebrew school. I went to Mt. Allison and didn’t know much about Jewish ritual but my mother kept kosher through the kosher butcher in Moncton. I came to Halifax to finish engineering in the late 40’s...I feel by joining the Shaar, it was an important part of my life. I can’t say I was a weekly attendee in those days but had a certain curiosity about the religion and started to take more of an interest. Shaar had more of an influence on me than I had on Shaar. In the late 60’s I served as treasurer and got further insight into people who made up the congregation - had dealings with people - some of their ideas were surprising
I have no regrets I made the decision to join the synagogue. A lot of the younger people are not affiliating and it’s unfortunate, they may regret it. I have favourable memories of Shaar.
Miriam Goldberg added:
We deserve a lot of credit for being together 60 years, and keeping the doors open. I’m very proud of Shaar Shalom and what we’ve accomplished . Leonard often led services and helped keep the shul going.
These founding members have inspired us and continue to do so. Roselle Green’s philosophy is something to be admired:
I have no regrets about the past. It was inspiring for me and still is. Every generation will contribute in their own way and as they see fit. It is a mistake to say that the next generation will not do anything but they will bring their own perspective. We brought what was important to us, and we should not have regrets about what the next generation will bring. My philosophy of life is that I think institutions are the staff of life community, university, family, synagogue - You should revere any institution that is within your grasp and value what it has to offer.
Not all of the founding members were able to attend the Founders’ Tea. Victoria Rosenberg wrote this tribute to Dr. Irving Perlin, who now lives in Toronto.
For over fifty years, the Shaar Shalom Congregation and Dr. Irving Perlin were synonyms. Impossible to think of one without the other. If there were services to attend, he faithfully attended; services to lead, he lead them; kiddush to recite, he recited it. And always, always, he chanted the Kol Nidre prayer. Year after year. His voice reflected his qualities of character, gentle and calm. Even- tempered, he showed anger only at what he perceived to be unkindnesses. He saw the goodness in situations others perceived as problematic; the glass for him was half-full. Moving from Halifax to live with his children, he left us a glass half-empty.
Dr. Irving Perlin, The Shaar's only Honourary Life Member, in his Toronto apartment enjoying an August 2012 Shaar update and visit from Lysa April.
Dr. Irving Perlin and his wife Freda in 2005.
Connie Glube was not able to attend the tea, but she was happy to reflect on the Shaar Shalom’s history and its values:
Shaar Shalom was extremely important to Connie’s father-in-law, Joe Glube. He was adamant, along with Noa Heinish and others, about starting a Conservative Synagogue, and he became a founder of Shaar Shalom. Joe was president of the Synagogue for a period of time. He attended regularly and always went every Friday night or Saturday morning. He was instrumental in the founding of the Synagogue because he really wanted it, and he wanted a change in the city. He and Noa Heinish, who was the first president of the Synagogue, awakened people’s interest and made sure it was going to work.
Concerning women’s involvement in the Synagogue, Connie noted that Barbara Goldberg was a very influential person, particularly for the activities and contributions of the Women’s League. Barbara made sure the women were involved, and eventually Connie became president of the Women’s League for a period of time. The League used to do a lot of cooking and preparations for high holidays and special occasions. The Women’s League also organized and ran other events such as clothing and bake sales and in many ways supported other activities of the Synagogue.
Connie went back to work in the 60s, and with four children, she didn’t have much time to be active in the synagogue during the early years. When her children attended Hebrew School, she would leave work to take them there. Now that she has retired, she has more time to attend synagogue. Along the way, she was able to dedicate a room on the second floor. Connie noted that most of the religious and historical objects have been donated by Synagogue members.
Connie said that Shaar Shalom has been an important part of her family’s’ lives, and it’s been good for everyone. She thinks that the religion and ethics we learn are very important, especially if we have children. The Shaar Shalom has given all of us a broad view of what we are morally responsible for as Jews living together.
Florie Fineberg was unable to attend the tea. She was happy to reminisce about her early days at the Shaar Shalom.
In the early days, everyone was very enthusiastic. At that point in time, my husband was earning $50 a week and dues were $100 a year. We were not sure if we could swing it but I made up my mind. I was so appreciative that at the conservative synagogue I could say kaddish and wondered what could I give back. So I gave the gift of music - I decided to teach the Hebrew school kids ( it was junior choir).
I used to go to synagogue around the corner from where I lived as a child (in Montreal). It was orthodox with a wonderful rabbi. What impressed me the most was the male choir there. That was my first experience with Hebrew music. I loved it so much that when I decided to start a choir at the Shaar Shalom, I had to learn the music and the
Hebrew. I had no Hebrew training. Tsipora Jacobs, the rabbi’s wife was giving Hebrew classes so I took them, and got the music and away we went. We were starting from scratch - there were not even chairs to sit on.
I decided to do a project every year - did dances, tea and sales. There were Purim dances, New Year’s dances, we put on plays and often brought the house down with the shows.
What else kept me there? The Heinishes, Glubes and others always had their homes open and people would go over, everyone was so nice. How could we reciprocate ? Len and I were young, with a small house. So we decided to hold a dinner party upstairs in the shul for 75 people. We
barely knew how to cook at that point but made cheese kugels, salads etc.
Sylvia Herschorn, Miriam Goldberg, Barabra Goldberg, Sophie Forman came in early to help set up the tables without being asked and surprised us. I am still amazed by their kindness. There was so much togetherness. To this day I remember this function so clearly. These people were so lovely.
Three years later at our Mother’s Day luncheon, Len and I walked in the auditorium with Aline, our new baby, and everyone stood and clapped to welcome the new baby - that’s when I knew this was my home.
Article compiled by Sharon Waxman, with the help of Linda Schroeder, Lea McKnight and Molly Rechnitzer.