Our History

Fifty Years of Facts

June 27, 1962

36 families agree to constitute a new Reform congregation. Most of the signers had been members of Temple Beth El in Alexandria; others were unaffiliated families looking for a congregation in or near Falls Church. More families will join throughout the summer. These, and the many families that will join before the Temple has its own building, will become known eventually as the Pioneers.

Founding Charter Members

Joseph and Edith Abramson Robert and Saralee Hurwitch
Morris and Mildred Adelson Irving and Claire Imburg
Joseph and Ida Auerbach Emanuel and Mae Kintisch
Albert and Matilda Baker Irving and Shirley Kleinfeld
Ernest and Anna Bloch Louis and Dorothy Koffman
Dominic and Yetta Bock Harvey and Barbara Levin
Norman and Hilda Brandt James and Charlotte Linde
Joseph and Blanche Cohen Donald and Sybil Lubin
Jules and Marian Cohen Bernard and Cecile Newburg
Ralph and Beatrice Cole Maurice and Minnie Odoroff
Eugene and Carol Davidson Paul and Jean Pfeiffer
Gilbert and Esther Davis Edward and Lois Proctor
Libert and Sara Ehrman Berton and Nan Rudin
Leonard and Beatrice Emmerglick Philip and Beatrice Rudin
Henry and Harriet Epstein Lazard and Marian Seiff
Herman and Ruth Fink Harold and Ida Silverstein
Erna Frankel Douglas and Claire Tepper
C. Ira and Charlotte Funston Burton and Rose Thorman 

1962

July 6, 1962

First Shabbat service is held in Herman Fink’s office building, led by Larry Seiff with music provided by Rose Thorman accompanied by Adele Zacharias.

July 18, 1962

After extended debate, the name Rodef Shalom is selected. Originally not a finalist, it was inserted before the list of names was presented for a vote because the poster had room at the bottom. Its origin is in the Talmud, one of the teachings of the great Hillel, “be of the disciples of Aaron, one that loves peace (Ohev Shalom) and pursues peace (Rodef Shalom), that loves people and brings them close to Torah.”

Also in 1962

Stephen Abramson becomes the first Bar Mitzvah on a Friday night as no Saturday services were held.

David and Patsy Kruger offer the gift of a Torah. A second Torah is donated by Philip and Beatrice Rudin, a relic from an Orthodox Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Our original Ark is designed by Nan Rudin and built by her father Phil Rudin to fit into a station wagon so that it could be stored in member homes between services. The Ark will remain in weekly use until the Temple building is constructed. In 1990, it will go on temporary loan to the Interfaith Chapel at the U.S. President’s retreat at Camp David.

August 1962

Religious School is organized by Ida and Joseph Auerbach in 3 months on a preliminary budget of $150. Ultimately, 5 classrooms are rented at Thomas Jefferson Elementary for 106 religious school students. Cost for each room is $4.10 per week. Before the congregation has its own building, classes will also be held at Lemon Road and Haycock Elementary Schools.

September/October 1962

An estimated 270 seats are needed for the first High Holy Day services at Arlington Unitarian Church.

November 1962

A Committee is formed to organize youth activities. In 1966, Rodef Shalom Youth will begin its active participation with the National Federation of Temple Youth and the Mid-Atlantic Federation of Temple Youth. It will continue to be supported by volunteer adult advisors until a part-time staff member is hired in 1986.

Also in 1962

Membership dues during this first year are set at $120 per year for a family; single adults and newly-married couples would pay $80 a year and “junior members” $40.

December 5, 1962

Temple Rodef Shalom joins the Union for American Hebrew Congregations, later the Union for Reform Judaism.

Temple office is rented in Ravensworth Towers. A typewriter is rented for $8 per month.

An organ is purchased and dedicated in grateful appreciation to Herman and Ruth Fink for regular use of space in the Fink Professional Building

1963

May 1963

Search committee recommends purchase of 7-acre lot on Westmoreland for $40,000. Following heated debate, the recommendation is withdrawn. 10 Temple members decide to purchase the land themselves to hold until the congregation is ready to commit itself the following year.

Temple Women of Rodef Shalom is formed, establishing committees for flowers, Oneg Shabbat, hospitality, Shabbat candles, social affairs, telephone, information and Religious School liaison.

July 1, 1963

Rabbi Laszlo Berkowits begins his long service to the Temple as its first Rabbi. His first official function is the Brit Milah of David Levin.

September 1963

High Holy Day services are celebrated at First Christian Church of Falls Church due to increased attendance.

December 15, 1963

Eleanor Auerbach marries Richard Linde in congregation’s first wedding.

First fiscal year is completed: Expenses total $24,300.

Religious School enrollment reaches 111.

1965

June 1965

Ceremony dedicating the land is attended by Rabbi Berkowits, the congregation, Fairfax County representatives and a large black snake that made its way through the crowd.

1966

December 1966

Temple membership surpasses 150 families.

Planning begins on the future Temple building which will be designed to accommodate a congregation of 400-500 families. When the building is completed in 1970, there are 240 families.

Along with 16 churches and synagogues, the Temple begins continuing support of a day care center at Chesterbrook Presbyterian Church for lower-income families.

Men’s Group becomes fully active.

1969

November 16, 1969

Cornerstone of original Temple building is laid.

The Temple hosts the first Northern Virginia Israel Independence Day celebration.

1970

Original building is completed in time to hold High Holy Day services in the congregation’s new home. The estimated cost was $350,000; the final cost is $600,000. Soon after, the Temple is formally consecrated over three days, October 23-25. It is dedicated as a House of Prayer, as a House of Learning, and to the Community. When the keys to the building are formally presented, the sanctuary erupts for more than 10 minutes of pandemonium of joy, with singing, hugging and dancing in the aisles. It is the first Jewish Temple in Fairfax County’s history.

Temple membership reaches 275 families.

The congregation joins Project SHARE, an association of 19 McLean congregations with interests in day care and housing among other causes. Temple members will contribute food, clothing, household goods, time and talent for many years to come.

Rodef Shalom participates in daily noontime services to protest Soviet treatment of its Jewish population.

1971

January 1971

Congregation approves a new approach to membership, the Fair Share/Self-Assessment Dues Plan, by which member families set their own dues based on their ability to contribute so that the Temple remains open to all.

September 1971

Judy Seiff, a child development teacher in the Arlington County school system, agrees to develop a nursery school program. The school opens in September with 1 staff member and 15 students.

October 25, 1971

One year after its dedication, 19 rifle shots shatter the front windows of the building. Thirty days later on Thanksgiving, more shotgun blasts will damage the remaining window, light fixtures and pillars. Churches and other civic groups will pledge support and the Catholic University Players will give a benefit performance to help raise money to buy new windows, the price of which was $3,000.

Frank Conlon is hired as choir director.

1973

Temple Rodef Shalom dedicates its library.

Ruth Checknoff is elected the first woman President of Temple Rodef Shalom.

Religious School enrollment exceeds 400 students.

Camp Rodef Shalom is organized under the supervision of Joanne Fields. Two years later in 1978, Flo Frey will begin as Camp Director and continue until 1986.

The first 6 Havurot are formed with 39 families.

1977

Fall 1977

Temple grows to 365 families.

November 1977

A proposal is made to finish the lower level as a multipurpose room and to enlarge the social hall. Armand Weiss serves as Development Chair. The next year, lower level construction will begin with Gerry Kadonoff as construction chair, and the multipurpose room will be completed and dedicated in March 1980.

Temple budget is $200,000, ten times the income of the first year and about quadruple the level of 1970.

1979

Rodef Shalom helps to resettle the Do family, the first of 5 refugee Vietnamese families escaping the collapse of South Vietnam. Later, the congregation will sponsor the Katona family from Hungary (longtime Temple members) and other families from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

The Religious School Committee conducts a parent survey which indicates a strong preference for dual Sunday sessions.

Chai Society is established as a group for members who have been active since the founding of the Temple.

Construction of a social hall addition begins and will be completed in 1984.

First adult B’nai Mitzvah class

Temple budget is $488,000. One year later, it will be $600,000.

Religious school enrollment reaches 440, and its Director becomes a full time position.

Nursery School wooden playground is assembled by 400 members, families, and friends.

A new step is taken in the management of Temple funds with the creation of the Temple Rodef Shalom Endowment which is designed to produce continuing income for the congregation.

1985

Judy Seiff becomes Director of Education, combining supervision of nursery school and religious school operations. Karen Simpson replaces her as our second nursery school director.

Outreach program is developed to address issues affecting families of interfaith marriages.

Nursery School enrollment reaches 160.

Temple membership grows to 628 families.

1987

25th Anniversary Year observances begin with a special Shabbat service launching the theme “From Generation to Generation.” The centerpiece of the celebration is a lecture by Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel before an estimated 1,200 people. A 25-year history of the Temple, written by Robert W. Kenny, is published.

Saturday morning Torah Study in initiated.

1990

Amy Schwartzman is installed as first Assistant Rabbi.

Susan Trivers becomes our first Temple Administrator.

1992

May 1992

Dedication ceremony is held for our Holocaust Torah from the Pinkus Synagogue in Prague, Czechoslovakia, the result of a permanent loan arranged by Temple Treasurer Peter Elinsky.

December 1992

Over 100 congregants participate in first Mitzvah Day, sorting food and clothing, preparing and serving meals, and helping to furnish an apartment for a homeless family.

Judy Seiff becomes Temple Administrator.

Dina Burt joins the staff as the Religious School Principal.

1993

Rabbi Laszlo Berkowits celebrates 30 years as our Rabbi.

1995

Packed-house program as Rabbi Laszlo Berkowits remembers his liberation and the liberation of the concentration camps 50 years ago. The Temple’s garden will later receive a brick from the barrack in which he lived while imprisoned in Auschwitz II-Birkenau.

Temple launches “Project Caravan” under the leadership of Judy Berkowits and Grazia Sher to provide soup, sandwiches and fruit to 100 homeless people on a weekly basis.

Barbara Brot Bailey becomes Temple’s first Religious School Assistant Principal.

Temple grows to 946 member families and the Religious school reaches 690 students.

A summer of many exciting changes at TRS! The groundbreaking ceremony for the new Temple building takes place on June 6. Later that month, Rabbi Laszlo Berkowits retires as our Senior Rabbi, after 34 years of outstanding service, and assumes the title of Founding Rabbi. Rabbi Amy Schwartzman, then our Associate Rabbi, becomes our second Senior Rabbi. And Cantor Michael Shochet leaves a congregation in New Orleans to join Rodef Shalom as the Temple’s first Cantor.

Judy Cincinnati joins staff as Religious School Haskalah Coordinator.

1998

Volunteer choir is enlarged and takes the name Koleinu (Our Voices).

During construction of the new building High Holiday Services are held at Westfields Conference Center for two years.

Rodef Arts Cultural Series is initiated

Shir Harmony is formed as the Temple’s junior choir.

1999

Rabbi Marcus Burstein joins Clergy as Assistant Rabbi.

Temple Rodef Shalom joins forces with Lewinsville Presbyterian Church and Immanuel Presbyterian Church to foster the creation of neighbor Chesterbrook Residences, which will open in 2007 to provide affordable assisted living housing for residents with a range of incomes.

2000

March 2000

“The Megillah According to Broadway” begins a tradition of congregational musical Purim spiels.

October 2000

First Sukkot tour

November 2000

www.templerodefshalom.org web site is launched.

December 2000

First “Shabbat Rocks” program.

2001

June 2001

Concert program honors Frank Conlon for his 30 years as Temple’s Choir Director.

July 2001

The renovated Sanctuary is reopened hosting the American Conference of Cantors and Guild of Temple Musicians.

Anita Thornton becomes first Program Director.

October 2001

Over the weekend of October 26-28, the expanded Temple building, now with 65,000 square feet of space, is dedicated with a special Shabbat service, “Rededicating Our Sacred Space,” and two nights of entertainment and celebration. The expanded building now includes a new three-story wing with elevator, 22 additional classrooms, meeting rooms, increased office space, new library, new social, expanded Sanctuary, and many other improvements. The Preserving the Promise Fund Raising Campaign had been led initially by Susan and Sam Simon, the only married couple to serve as Temple Presidents, and later by Lynn Fletcher and Linda Rohrbach.

2004

Judy Seiff retires as Temple Administrator after 32 years of service in various staff positions—the longest-serving non-clergy staff person. (36 years including her tenure as Youth Group advisor beginning in 1968 along with husband Hank Seiff.)

Beth Silver becomes Executive Director.

2005

Rabbi Dr. Michael Shire serves as Sabbatical Adjunct Rabbi until June during Rabbi Schwartzman’s sabbatical.

Karen Simpson retires as Director of the Nursery School after 21 years of service. She is succeeded by Fran Pfeffer.

2006

A leading composer and performer, Debbie Friedman gives a concert at TRS. Many of her songs are included in our worship services and choral repertoire.

2007

Summer 2007

Another busy summer of staff and clergy transitions, as Assistant Rabbi Marcus Burstein leaves for a position with the Union for Reform Judaism and is replaced by Rabbi Jeffrey Saxe. Cantor Allen Leider joins the staff as Director of Education, and Howard Stregack becomes the first Director of Membership Development.

September 2007

Babette Cohn becomes Principal for Grades 4-6.

2008

January 2008

Mishkah T’filah becomes the new service prayer book.

May 2008

After a three-year term, Student Cantor Rebecca Robins receives her Master of Sacred Music degree from HUC-JIR and became Cantor at a congregation in Milwaukee; Summer Rabbinic Intern Neil Hirsch becomes our first Camp Educator.

June 2008

Cantor Tracey Scher joins the clergy team bringing the number of Cantors on staff at TRS to four (including Rabbi Saxe and Cantor Leider)!

Major renovations begin in the Sanctuary to make the bema accessible.

September 2008

TRS undergoes a multi-year examination of educational engagement, resulting in the unveiling of the J*Journeys initiatives in 2011 and the hiring of Dara Holop as J*Journeys Engagement Specialist in the Summer of 2012.

N’tivtot (“Pathways”), a new approach in teen education, launches, adding a new focus on community building and living Jewish values, with multiple options for learning and engagement. This begins a practice of restructuring the Religious School curriculum to better accommodate the different learning styles and scheduling obstacles that are particular to various grade levels.

October 2008

TRS begins its association with Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE), a non-partisan coalition of over 45 faith communities and civic organizations in Northern Virginia working together to make positive change in communities. This new organizing work will later take seed as Hineinu—Standing Together, a Temple-wide effort to organize members for joint deliberation and action to address needs within the congregation.

2010

February 2010

Haitian Ambassador Raymond Joseph addresses Rodef Shalom concerning the devastating Haitian earthquake. The Temple adopts the town of Petit-Goâve to provide assistance.

March 2010

Rabbi Amy Schwartzman’s 20 years as a Rabbi at TRS are celebrated. In her honor, the Fund for Youth and Jewish Identity is created to increase opportunities for children and teens to engage with Judaism and forge an abiding connection to Jewish life.

July 2010

Nathan Weiner departs as Principal for Grades 7-12 and is succeeded by Courtney Anthony.

2011

Summer 2011

After 17 years at Camp Rodef Shalom in various roles as camper and staff, Jay Rapoport departs as Camp Director. He is succeeded by Danielle Heyman Feist.

September 2011

Ari Paskoff is named Youth Director, succeeding Brynne Rosenberg.

The Temple’s 50th year begins with a full calendar of celebration events to honor the milestone.

October 2011

Bunny’s Place, a new outdoor environment, is dedicated to provide the Nursery School with a setting for children to directly experience nature and its many elements.

June 2012

After 50 years, Temple Rodef Shalom is a community of 1,535 households totaling 5,131 adults and children. Its operating budget is $5.9 million. The Religious School educates 894 children in grades K-12, the Nursery School nurtures 196 preschoolers, and the Summer Camp greets 257 campers plus 120 staff (many of them Temple youth).

July 1, 2012

The next 50 years begin…