As the Reno community grew, so did the need for a Reform Jewish synagogue. Temple Sinai was the answer, creating a strong congregation that has thrived for more than sixty years.
The first steps in creating a Reform Jewish community began in 1939 when a small group of women and men discovered that Joseph Gumbiner, a local bookstore operator in downtown’s Masonic Building, was an ordained Reform Rabbi. He agreed to conduct a book group for them, and in 1940 this group became the core of a Reform congregation, Temple Beth Or. Their Friday evening services first were held at a dancing school on Cheney Street, then at the Knights of Pythias Hall on 5th and North Virginia. In 1946, Temple Beth Or joined with Temple Emanu-El at Emanu-El’s synagogue on West Street. The merger, however, did not last.
Redefining itself in 1962 as Temple Sinai, a group of the Reform members had a vision of a religious community that they felt would better fit Reno’s progressive Western culture. Seven families (Dickens, Garell, Garfinkle, Brown, Gumbert, Cantor, and Fielding) approached Rabbi Joseph Glaser of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) to establish a Reform Congregation. They gathered for High Holy Day services in September with arrangements to hold services in the Virginia City Room of the Masonic Temple at First Street. Services were conducted by the members themselves, with Milton Gumbert leading the choir. Since there was no full-time rabbi, UAHC sent representatives to celebrate various life cycle events.
In 1965, fire in the Masonic Building compelled the congregation to find another place to meet. The Reno Musician’s Hall at 124 W. Taylor St. was the synagogue’s second temporary home from 1965-1970. Congregation President Louis Dickens located and purchased a three-acre plot of land in Northwest Reno on Gulling Road and sold it to the temple at cost of $8,000. This was to become the permanent home of Temple Sinai. On February 26, 1970, a Nevada State Journal headline declared, “Temple Sinai Congregation Announces Plans for Building Its New Temple.” It was described as “the first Jewish temple built in Reno in the past half century.” The cost of the entire project was $53,000 and was paid off in 1975 with a celebratory mortgage-burning event.
As the congregation grew, in 1990 construction began on an addition which added four classrooms, a dividable library/multi-purpose room, and an outdoor patio. This project was completed at a cost of $250,000, and again, the loan was paid off in a relatively short amount of time. Another addition began in July, 2007, a $1.5 million project that included a large social hall, two classrooms, a commercial kitchen, improved office space, a newly renovated library, an enlarged sanctuary, as well as a new entrance and lobby.
Once the congregation moved to Gulling Road, it became apparent that there was a need for consistent spiritual leadership. Fortunately, Rabbi Abraham Feinberg had recently moved to Reno and agreed to provide rabbinic services as needed. By 1982, Temple Sinai was in a financial position to hire a full-time rabbi. For two years, Paul Tuchman led services, followed by Rabbi Myra Soifer, who was among the first women to be ordained by Hebrew Union College. “Rabbi Myra” served as rabbi for 25 years. Rabbi Benjamin Zober and Rabbi Sara Zober, a husband-and-wife team, took on shared responsibilities in 2018.