Congregation Shaareth Israel

Lubbock, Texas


Note: This was a speech given by Norma Skibell in Feldman Hall of Congregation Shaareth Israel, Lubbock, Texas, on Feb. 11, 1995 honoring Marvin Feldman (our mentor) and commemorating the 10th anniversary of our present Temple.

Organized Judaism began in Lubbock in a room at the Lubbock Hotel. About fifteen families would gather for the High Holiday services. Moshe Forbstein, a salesman, from Kansas City would conduct the service. He was not a Rabbi, but a knowledgeable lay man. This was in the early l930's. As more Jewish people moved here there was a growing need to have a schul. At that time we all considered ourselves as Orthodox, but leaned more to conservativism. The membership roster had many names some you will recognize from a few relatives that still call Lubbock home. Some who have passed on are remembered on our memorial wall.

How did these people earn a living? Most of the families were in business for themselves. Merchants were the mainstay and the chief support of the community. Morris and Bill Levine had a four floor department store on Broadway and some of the families were in their employee. To name a few Boy Finberg, Dave Arker, Barney Spector, and my daddy, A.I. Glassman. Other merchants were Louie Freed, Claude Grollman, Jerry Jarett, Charles Laskey, Sam Kirschner, Sam Koretsky, Hymie Kligman, Sam Rosenthal, Rose Segal, and Mr. Miller. They were all in dry goods or ready to wear. The Finbergs were in finance. The Feldmans were in pipe and steel. The Levas, Marvin's grandparents, had the Hungarian Cafe, a restaurant you wouldn't believe could exist in little old Lubbock. True Jewish foods cooked daily by Mama Leva. Herman Fink and Sam Kelisky were the architects of many homes and building that are still standing in our city today.

We also want to remember the people who worshipped with us from surrounding towns: The Kessels from Slaton; Nathan and Lottie Stool from Portales, New Mexico; Al and Annie Lehman for Tahoka; and Esther and Nathan Houstman from Lubbock and the Levelland. These were the people with vision. They enticed their families and friends to move to Lubbock. The Grollmans brought Abe Favorman and his daughter Sarah here. Sarah married Ben Beaird, which was the first Jewish wedding. Yes, the congregation invested in a huppa which they thought would never be used again...but, Albert and I made use of it some years later. Rose Segal made her contribution to the community by encouraging her daughters Rae Roth, Eve Carson, and Eddie Wilk and their families to move here. The Rosenthals brought Adelaide's parents, the Michaelsons, who insisted their daughter and son-in-law, Dorothy and Sylvan Skibell be part of this town. Fanny and Sam Kirschner wanted their sons near, so we gained Jerry and Dorothy and Martin and Lillian.

These are the people who planted the roots for us to grown on. They took a giant step forward to establish a synagogue at sixteenth and Ave.X. A small frame house became our treasured house of worship. Jenny Feldman remolded and decorated it. Isadore Garsek was our first Rabbi. More Jews discovered Lubbock, Texas, the Hub of the Plains. Good climate, good living conditions, good schools, and a good place to make a living which meant more influx-more members- more money and a larger Synagogue was needed. Sam Kelisky was the architect for the schul at 23rd and Avenue Q. The year was l942. Rabbi Garsek had joined the army and we again were without a leader. We had to revert to lay services. When Rabbi Garsek came back, he brought his new wife Sadie May, from Ft. Worth. They remained till l948. Then Rabbi Julius Kerman and Ethel served two years, followed by Rabbi Adolf Phillipsborn and his wife Trudy. After they left, Rabbi Stanley Yedwab and his wife Myra came for a short time and after they left we were without leadership once again. Fortunately Chaplain Israel Kaplan came to us on a temporary basis. Then Rabbi Alexander Kline and Elenore came in l960 and stayed until his retirement in l981. After that Rabbi Stephen Weisberg and his wife DeeDee lead us into our magnificent new Temple. When Rabbi Weisberg left; we were again without a religious head. But we were fortunate to have a young man who was a pre-medical student conduct Sabbath services. We were without an ordained Rabbi, But Fred Senatore helped keep the congregation together and we did worship together, and had a continuity of Jewish life. Now we are enjoying the efforts of Rabbi Sherman Stein and his wife, Lila. We have a knowledgeable teacher, an authority on all things Jewish, who is willing to teach if you will listen.

We did hold services at two other places, while this building was being built; the Second Baptist Church invited us to hold our Friday night services in their parlor, which we did. They were most considerate of our needs and gave us a place to keep a Torah. So a closet became our Holy Ark for several months. That year Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were celebrated at the Shriner's building on Ave.Q. While we were at 23rd and Ave.Q., we knew more space was needed. We wanted a fellowship hall, larger kitchen and more classrooms. You may not realize we only had the sanctuary for praying, playing, and teaching. We had to expand!

At that time the Houstmans took the initiative and donated a sum of considerable proportion, a fund was begun and soon thereafter we had five classrooms, a larger kitchen and Houstman Hall. While we worshipped there in our little schul we went through a transformation. One Friday night we came to services and our seders had disappeared - vanished - replaced by new Prayer Books we had never seen before. Suddenly we were Reformed Jews.Perhaps the time was right for a change. Religious Modern movements were happening throughout the country. Many of our new members were Reform Jews. Lubbock certainly could not support a Synagogue and a Temple. Very few of the congregates could read Hebrew, let alone translate it. Our children went to Religious School, but there was no hadder. When it was time our twelve year old sons crammed into two or three months enough to be Bar Mitzvah. Maybe some things don t change, but most of us enjoyed services more when more English was read. We were one congregation with one aim, and that was to practice Judaism as generations before us had. There was one concession: Yamalkas were to be worn in respect to our Orthodox heritage.

Once again realization struck. We were bursting our of our revered place of worship. We had outgrown another building. What to do? There were pros and cons; to expand, not to expand, to build, not to build. It came down to the fact we did not have what it takes to build what we needed MONEY!