The History of Temple Sinai of Swampscott and Marblehead
The Temple Sinai Religious School was founded on May 24, 1953 through the efforts of five men who felt strongly that Hebrew education was the most important function of a synagogue community. This group expanded into twenty founders, who purchased the original school building, a mansion located at 140 Atlantic Avenue in Swampscott. An announcement that year that High Holiday Services would be held at the school brought such a large response that it became clear that a temple would have to be established as well. On July 19, 1953, the founders of Temple Sinai Religious School met and voted Temple Sinai into existence “for the purpose of worship in the principles and tradition of Conservative Judaism.” The temple was dedicated formally on December 2, 1953 with 60 member families. During the summer of 1954, the building was remodeled extensively, removing the grand staircase and creating a sanctuary seating 250 on the first floor. Four classrooms on the second floor were accessible via the former servant’s staircase in the rear of the building. The third floor held offices and books.
As membership neared 100 families in September, 1955, we hired our first Rabbi and Cantor. By 1959, we had outgrown the mansion and a decision was made to raise funds to build a new temple and school at 118 Atlantic Avenue where the Rabbi’s house (original parsonage) stood. While the fundraising goal to build was met within two months, the site did not work out due to zoning variances that were needed and opposition from residents in the area. Ultimately, land was purchased from the Jewish Community Center of Greater Lynn on April 24, 1960 where the temple now stands on Community Road in Marblehead. The first event at Temple Sinai, Hebrew School Graduation on June 4, 1961, was held while the interior paint was still wet.
More than 69 years later, our educational and social action programs continue to this day, and bring a large, non-denominational audience to Temple Sinai on a regular basis. During the 1960s, Temple Sinai’s leaders were at the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, led by our Rabbi Emeritus Meyer J. Strassfeld, who marched in Selma, Alabama with Dr. Martin Luther King. Temple Sinai continues to be a worthy contributor to the efforts of the entire religious and ethnic community of the North Shore and beyond. Our leadership and congregation have joined together with other temples, churches and mosques when any expression of religious intolerance has occurred. And Temple Sinai has served as a forum for the many and diverse views of events in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world. Our Rabbis have filled a number of ecumenical leadership roles in the religious community, such as chaplain to the Marblehead Police Department and chaplain for local hospitals.
Temple Sinai continues its longstanding traditions by focusing on adult education and social action in our community today. Temple Sinai participates yearly in the Manna Project, a multi-faith project that raises money to feed the hungry and provide food security to those on the periphery of our society, and has a monthly social action activity to support disadvantaged communities both in Massachusetts and across the world. We are proud of our programming and of our members, some of whom were part of the original founding families.