Temple B'rith Kodesh has a long and fascinating history which is superbly documented in Affirming the Covenant, by Peter Eisenstadt (1999), which is available for purchase in the temple office. It is an excellent book and well worth reading. Below is a brief summary of major events in the temple's development.
Temple B'rith Kodesh was founded on October 9, 1848 as an Orthodox synagogue with 12 members. It is the oldest Jewish congregation and the largest Reform temple in the greater Rochester area.
By 1894 the congregation had grown to over 250 members and a building was purchased in downtown Rochester. During this period, a gradual change from Orthodoxy to Classical Reform began.
When Rabbi Philip S. Bernstein became Senior Rabbi in 1926, the temple was located on Gibbs Street in the downtown area of Rochester. More traditional observances were adopted by the congregation, including:
- The return from Sunday services to Friday night and Saturday morning services;
- The resumption of traditional High Holy Day observances;
- The inclusion of Bar and Bat Mitzvah rituals.
In 1973, when Rabbi Judea Miller assumed the mantle of Senior Rabbi, he introduced more traditional observances, including
- Optional wearing of kippot and tallitot;
- Congregational participation in services;
- Observances of all holy days on the actual day.
In 1975, Gates of Prayer replaced The Union Prayer Book, and both English and Hebrew were used in the services. In 1996, a gender sensitive edition of Gates of Prayer was adopted for use.
Simchat Torah was an especially joyous occasion in 1962 when Temple B'rith Kodesh dedicated a new building in the suburb of Brighton, our current home. By this time, the membership had grown to 1200 families and was still growing.
Temple B'rith Kodesh has enjoyed a long and illustrious history in terms of our congregation and our clergy. In the many years since our inception, we have served as a training ground for many Assistant Rabbis, but have employed only six Senior Rabbis: Dr. Max Landsberg, Rabbi Horace Wolf, Rabbi Philip S. Bernstein, Rabbi Judea B. Miller, Rabbi Laurence A. Kotok and Rabbi Peter W. Stein. All have been beloved by our congregation and have achieved national and international recognition.
Many of our Assistant and Associate Rabbis have also gone on to exciting careers within the Union for Reform Judaism (or as formerly known, the UAHC.) They include Rabbi Herbert Bronstein, Rabbi Ronald Shapiro, Rabbi Rosalind Gold, Rabbi Judy Cohen-Rosenberg, Rabbi Brian Daniels, Rabbi Marc Gruber, Rabbi S. Robert Morais and Rabbi Rebecca Gutterman.
We have had a Cantor at various times in our history and at other times we have employed Cantorial Soloists. Past Cantors have include Cantor Stephen Richards, Cantor David Unterman, Cantor Richard Allen, Cantor Barbara Horowitz, Cantor Martha Birnbaum and Cantor Joel Colman. Currently, Keri Lopatin Berger serves as our Cantorial Soloist and Director of Music.
At the present time our membership consists of approximately 900 families.
Learn more about our history from the book about our congregation, Affirming the Covenant - A History of Temple B'rith Kodesh, by Peter Eisenstadt. The book is available in the temple office, or you can print and mail an order form to buy it from us.