Filed Under Religion

Temple Sinai

Reno’s Reform Congregation for more than 60 years

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.

Images

Temple Sinai in 1970
Temple Sinai in 1970 A view of the original building in 1970 Source: Temple Sinai Date: 1970
1964 Bar Mitzvah
1964 Bar Mitzvah Rabbi Leibert with Stephen Jaffe, who was the first Bar Mitzvah at Temple Sinai in 1964. Source: Temple Sinai Date: 1964
Mark Davis Bar Mitzvah
Mark Davis Bar Mitzvah Among the first B’nei Mitzvah was Mark Davis, son of Sammy Davis, Jr. The ceremony was held in 1973, attended by many well-known entertainers, with Rabbi Morris Hirschman of the San Francisco office of UAHC presiding. Source: Temple Sinai Date: 1973
Harry Weinberg doors
Harry Weinberg doors In 1997 Harry Weinberg, a congregant and noted woodworker, designed these doors and completed a three- year project of designing and renovating Temple Sinai’s sanctuary. Weinberg hand-tooled extensive paneling and new doors for the Ark, a new lectern and chairs for the bima (altar), and created a unique mantle holder for the Torah. The doors have since been moved inside the sanctuary. Source: Temple Sinai
Social Justice
Social Justice Members of Sinai’s Social Action Committee marching on Virginia Street in Reno’s 2018 Pride Parade Source: Temple Sinai Date: 2018
Main entrance
Main entrance A contemporary photo of the main entrance of Temple Sinai Source: Temple Sinai Date: ca. 2020

Location

3405 Gulling Road, Reno, Nevada

Metadata

Sharon Honig-Bear, “Temple Sinai,” Reno Historical, accessed May 19, 2024, https://renohistorical.org/items/show/270.