Silvia Roffman and Suzanne singer co-authored a book for Temple Israel’s centennial commemoration, titled “Consider the Years,” which chronicled the history of the congregation from its founding in 1871 through 1971. The pair later updated the history with a booklet in 1996 for Temple Israel’s 125th anniversary. And last Friday, Silvia and Suzanne gave a brief oral history about Temple Israel and its congregation, including numerous tidbits of information, many of which were pretty funny, too.
For example, did you know that the first Jewish settlers in Omaha arrived in 1856, a decade before Nebraska gained statehood? Or that there was a shop owner named Julius Meyer, who sold Native artifacts at his store, the Wigwam. The local tribe gave him a name that translates to “Curly-haired-white-chief-with-one-tongue.”
Or did you know that when the first Temple Israel was built in 1884, the first rabbi hired was promptly arrested for “language from the pulpit that was unbecoming a clergyman”?
Suzanne’s talk is full of funny anecdotes like these, as well as other fascinating nuggets of history, from the congregation giving aid to Holocaust survivors after World War II to the need to build more classroms in the Cass Street building for the growing congregation.
It’s probably safe to say that Silvia and Suzanne have forgotten more about Temple Israel than the rest of us will ever know. For a more detailed history, I suggest reading their book, or you can try to track them down in person and pepper them with questions. But for a short history of the major moments in the life of the congregation, check out the video below. Odds are you’ll come away knowing something you didn’t know before.