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WCT:  A Brief History

The First Year (1966-67)

On July 28, 1966, at 9:02 p.m., in the Conference Room of the Chase Manhattan Bank, Woodlands Community Temple was born. Committees for constitution and bylaws, finances, education, membership and publicity, social activities, building, and ritual and ceremonies were developed.

In August 1966, publicity was developed, a church site was searched to temporarily house the congregation, financial policies were developed and the commitment to create two groups for religious school education was agreed upon (ages 4-6 and 7-8). In the first financial report, a balance of $70 was reported. A budget was drawn up for an estimated starting membership of 20 couples: rabbi, $500; books, $25; use of premises, $150; income from tuition, $10 per student; office expenses, $125; total budget, $985.  Projected membership for a year later was 60 families, with anticipated dues of $150 and expenses of $1000.

Later that month, the Calvin United Presbyterian Church at 600 Secor Road had agreed to host High Holy Day services. Westchester Reform Temple offered the use of a Torah. Woodlands had further decided they would seek the leadership of a rabbi from the Reform movement. Rabbi Dan Isaac, age 35, a college professor at Queens College was retained for the High Holy Days at an honorarium of $500.

On August 25, 1966, at the Chase Manhattan Bank, over 110 people gathered to hear about the plans for the future of the Temple. By the end of August, 83 families had become members. Thirty-four desks were purchased for the religious school. Guests were invited for the dedication ceremony, to be held Friday evening, September 9 at Calvin United Presbyterian Church.

For the High Holy Days, it was decided “not to interfere with the rabbi’s choice of sermon.” Shabbat evening services would be held at the church and led by a rabbi once each month, with the other Friday nights being held at members’ homes.

By October, the Board of Trustees had held the first of many, many conversations to take place across the decades regarding too many mailings. 101 families now belonged to the temple, with 89 children enrolled in the religious school.

The first slate of officers included: Alan Horowitz, President; Bill Weinberg, First Vice President; Stan Joseph, Second Vice President; Dick Schwarzstein, Third Vice President; Frank Simon, Treasurer; Carol Baron, Recording Secretary; and, Gloria Rosen, Corresponding Secretary.

By the end of October, Rabbi Samuel Kehati was selected to serve as the congregation’s first rabbi. As well, services were donated by Cantor Ben Cohen.
 
In November, with 122 members, it was decided to incorporate. The first Board of Trustees included (in addition to the officers): Rosalie Frankel, Marshall Goldman, Irwin Silverman, Philip Strauss, Carl Freilich, James Spector, Ron Tvert, Julian Weinberger, Irwin Miller, Sorella Schiller, Alan Solomon, Robert Steinhardt.

In December, a first discussion was held about the possibility of using the Warburg Mansion (location today of Woodlands High School) as the synagogue site.

In February, 1967, after much discussion about whether to become a Conservative of Reform congregation, the leadership voted unanimously to affiliate with the Reform movement’s Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC).

In April, the leadership voted unanimously to hold two days of religious school each week for the 1967-1968 year. In May, it was unanimously agreed to engage a full-time rabbi for the coming year.

WCT Through the 90's
 

1990-91

  • “Supporters of Woodlands” fundraising program begun to raise $50,000 by asking individual congregants to donate beyond their annual dues.

  • Work begins on the first edition of WCT’s cookbook, “What’s Cookin’ Tonight.”

  • Newly-invested Cantor Josee Woolf accepts a position at Temple Sholom in Succasunna, New Jersey.

  • WCT “kid” Scott Gurdin, son of Irene and Mo, becomes Rabbi Scott Gurdin.

1991-92

  • Julie Yugend-Green becomes Woodlands’ new Student Cantor.

  • “Supporters of Woodlands” raises $55,000!

  • 25th anniversary year-long celebration. Rabbis Sandy Ragins, Peter Rubinstein, Aaron Petuchowski and Billy Dreskin, along with Cantors Paul Silbersher and Ellen Dreskin, all return for the party.

  • Work begins to become involved in “Habitat for Humanity.”

  • In remembrance of the Expulsion from Spain in 1492, a “Sephardic Celebration” comes to WCT. 

  • The Shoah Torah scroll from Rakovnik, Czechoslovakia is repaired and rededicated.

  • The Confirmation Class buries a time capsule in the front garden, to be opened in 2017 by the 50th anniversary Confirmation Class.

  • Temple Educator Debbie Wasserman leaves Woodlands for the married life and Herzl Day School in Denver, Colorado.

  • Dominic DeFabritis and Thelma Trotter retire after 10 years as temple caretakers.

1992-93

Harriet Levine arrives as new Director of Education.
WCT begins participation in “Honor-a-Rescuer” Program, raising money to help support Christians who protected and sustained Jewish lives during the Shoah. Woodlands sponsors Frieda Adam, who hid Erna Putterman for two years in wartime Berlin.
“Women of Woodlands” begins.
Mark Solomon is honored for 20 years (!) on our religious school faculty.
Using the new Random House publication, Rabbi Magid introduces Talmud Study to Woodlands.
TORATHON: Reading the entire Torah in four hours to raise money for WCT.
Bechol Levavcha, Woodlands’ newest siddur (Shabbat prayerbook) is printed and placed in (Shabbat worship) circulation.

1993-94

  • Woodlands hosts its first HUC-JIR Student Cantorial Concert featuring performances by graduating seniors from the School of Sacred Music. Proceeds provide scholarships to beginning cantorial students.

  • $28,000 are raised for Woodlands’ new Endowment Fund.

  • A “No Dues Raffle” is held.

  • 89 guns are exchanged in Greenburgh during “Guns for Coupons” week.

  • “Kids Day” celebrates childhood and honors children.

  • Newly-invested Cantor Julie Yugend-Green becomes Woodlands’ first full-time cantor.

1994-95

  • “Heart to Heart Talk,” a support group for men, is begun.

  • The Milk-Can finds a home in WCT’s lobby, with its coins going to support a variety of temple projects: Honor-a-Rescuer, Adult Education, Scholar-in-Residence, Steve’s HOPE, and the Confirmation Israel Study Fund.

  • Steve’s HOPE, in memory of Stephen Lelewer, provides an opportunity for our high school students to bring a friend for a weekend visit to the Holocaust Museum in Washington.

  • Woodlands Literary Festival features three prominent Jewish women writers.

  • Tot Shabbat is begun, held once each month on Friday at 5:30 pm.

  • After ten years as editor of “Woodlands News,” Phyllis Shalant steps down. Margie Pollack steps up to the plate.

  • Rabbi Avi Magid leaves Woodlands to return to Temple Emanu-El in Honolulu, Hawaii.

1995-96

  • Former rabbinic intern Billy Dreskin returns to Woodlands as its new Rabbi.

  • Tot Shabbat moves to 7:00 pm, still one Friday evening a month.

  • Discussions begin on expanding the Sanctuary.

  • “Exotic Shabbat” arrives. This year: Beatles Shabbat!

  • Emergency fundraiser on behalf of burned forests of Jerusalem nets $4500 for Jewish National Fund.

  • “Back to Basics” Jewish learning program is begun.

  • “Gift of Chanukah” project is introduced. Sponsored jointly with the Jewish Federation, congregants donate new Chanukah gifts for New York’s Jewish needy.

  • Ellen and Billy Dreskin write their first annual Megillah Madness musical, “Beauty and the Beast Purim.”

  • The Pesach “Morning After” Breakfast is held, followed by a children’s program and parallel adult learning.

  • The Board of Trustees calls upon every individual in the synagogue to become of a member of ARZA, the Association of Reform Zionists of America.

  • Work begins on reviving the Social Action Committee.

  • 12th Grade Graduation returns for only the 2nd time, starting with one graduate: Geoff Mitelman.

  • Erev Shabbat Outdoor services begin — one hour long, held on the patio.

1996-97

  • 30th Anniversary celebration begins.

  • A Family Service (for 2nd-6th graders) arrives for Rosh Hashanah.

  • Klezmer Simchat Torah makes its debut.

  • Casino Night has a successful beginning in the tent.

  • Social action push is made (by the Ritual Committee, endorsed by the Board of Trustees) for members to sign Organ Donor cards.

  • Rabbi Gunther Plaut, editor of the Reform movement’s The Torah: A Modern Commentary, spends a weekend as Scholar-in-Residence.

  • A 3-session “Shofar Seminar” introduces congregants to this ancient art.

  • A professional development director is engaged to pursue financing for the Sanctuary expansion project.

  • “Shabbat Morning Express” begins, a half-hour adult service on days when no studnet becomes Bar/Bat Mitzvah.

  • Bone Marrow typing is added to the annual Blood Drive.

  • The annual Congregation Seder returns.

  • WCT’s first Mitzvah Day, 24 hours of good works throughout our community, is held.

  • Beged Kefet returns to Woodlands as part of the Mitzvah Day weekend.

  • Cantor Julie Yugend-Green leaves Woodlands to become Cantor at Oak Park Temple in Oak Park, Illinois.

1997-98

  • Our Rabbinic Intern program is reactivated after a 2-year hiatus, partly funded by generous contributions from members.

  • The High Holy Days Family Service (for 2nd-6th graders) expands to include both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

  • Woodlands enters cyberspace as its website, “Woodlands Front Porch,” gets up and running.

  • As part of the growing struggle for religious pluralism in Israel, a major effort is begun at Woodlands to register members to vote in the World Zionist Congress elections.

  • A social action fundraising effort is initiated to benefit more than 100 burned churches down south.

  • Atid (Hebrew, “future”) begins — a capital campaign to finance the proposed renovation/expansion project. A “Wall of Appreciation” will bring dedications to WCT for the first time.

  • Woodlands joins in forming AJLI, the Adult Jewish Learning Institute, with Temple Beth Abraham, Greenburgh Hebrew Center, and JCC on the Hudson.

  • Kehilat Noar (Youth Congregation) is established to fully integrate our high schoolers’ religious school, youth group, and social experiences at Woodlands.

  • “The Sukkah Project,” sponsored by the Ritual Committee, encourages members to build their own sukkah during Sukkot.

  • $300,000 in pledges have been received for the Atid Campaign.

  • Erev Shabbat services starting time moves from 8:30 pm to 8:00 pm.

  • 318 students are enrolled in the religious school.

  • Our “Food of the Month” program begins. Each month, congregants are asked to drop a specific food into the Tzedakah Shopping Cart anytime they come into the building. Collected foods will be distributed to: Friends of Karen, Greenburgh Interfaith Caring Community, and AIDS-Related Community Services (ARCS).

  • Shabbat HaChinuch (Jewish Education Shabbat) allows us to celebrate and focus on the importance on lifelong Jewish learning for us all.

  • With the growth of our religious school, it becomes necessary to “double up” B’nai Mitzvah students on occasional Shabbat mornings. During the transition years of 1999 and 2000, families are offered Friday nights as an alternative to doubling.

  • Jazz Shabbat, featuring Mark Bloom, melds traditional melodies with Jazz voicings to create a participatory experience of spirit and celebration.

  • Woodlands works closely with Greenburgh Interfaith Caring Community to provide support services to families affected by the burning down of a Dobbs Ferry apartment building.

  • The Board of Trustees endorses and circulates a petition on behalf of Civil Marriage for Same- Gender Couples.

  • Gesher l’Kesher, peer-mentoring by our 11th-12th graders for our 8th-9th graders, begins in our High School Academy program.

  • Board of Trustees agrees to finance “Gift of Israel” Program, assisting families in starting early to save for their child’s high school trip to Israel.

1998-99

  • Cantor Jonathan Gordon arrives from 19 years at Congregation Mishkan Israel in Hamden,Connecticut.

  • The first Adult Retreat in many, many years is held at Camp Salomon in Brewster, New York.

  • First congregational trip to Israel in many, many years is hosted by Rabbi Billy Dreskin.

  • An annual “Pulpit Exchange” with St. Joseph of Arimathea Church is begun.

  • Our first “Outreach Shabbat” provides a special welcome to, and support for, families with interfaith components.

  • The “Introduction to Judaism” program, taught jointly by Rabbi Dreskin and Cantor Gordon, begins.

  • Babysitting is offered on special Friday evenings throughout the year.

  • “Worship with the Wires Exposed” provides Shabbat experiences on 3-4 Friday evenings throughout the year that combine learning about the prayers with joyous and meaningful Shabbat celebration.

  • “Taste of Judaism” class is taught by the Rabbi Dreskin as a 3-session introduction to Jewish life for adults in interfaith relationships.

  • An annual Chanukah Family Concert is introduced.

  • Friday evening Israeli dancing is offered after the service 3-5 times during the year.

  • Rabbi Dreskin initiates “God-Talk” as a monthly opportunity for congregants to join together in the search for understanding and/or faith.

  • “Woodlands’ Coffeehouse” premieres its monthly Saturday evening of entertainment and food.

  • Composer-in-Residence weekend with Cleveland songwriter/performer Noah Budin is a success.

  • WCT holds 60’s-theme “Mortgage Burning Party” as its 30-year debt is zeroed out.

  • “Kids to Kids” allows religious school children to provide direct aid to refugee kids from Kosovo.

  • WCT becomes an associate of amazon.com online bookstore, receiving a percentage of all products purchased via Woodlands’ website — to benefit adult education.

  • A successful College Reunion BBQ was held mid-June.

  • WCT “kid” Jamie Korngold, daughter of Carol and Bob, becomes Rabbi Jamie Korngold.

1999-2000

  • A social action questionnaire distributed in the tent during Rosh Hashanah yields 350 members interested in becoming involved in social action projects.

  • The “Ben/Bat Binah” second-year component of the “Introduction to Judaism” program is begun.

  • Millennium Madness, the garage sale to end all garage sales, filled our tent with donated goods and raised $12,000 for the temple!

  • Final plans for the Atid renovation/expansion were submitted for consideration by the Town of Greenburgh.

  • Talmud study returns to WCT for the first time since 1992.

  • The Derech Leadership Development Program debuts, courting and training future leaders of WCT.

  • As the world prepared for Y2Khaos, Scholar-in-Residence Dr. Michael Cook explored millennium scenarios of a fundamentalist Christian nature with, “Is Your Soul Y2K Compliant?”

  • In the aftermath of the Columbine high school shootings, Woodlands joins with area organizations to form “A Front Porch Community,” families and neighborhoods coming together to encourage dignity, respect, and caring for every human being.

  • The cantor and rabbi once again humiliate themselves, this time with “Lieber and Stoller Exotic Shabbat!”

  • “A House for All People.” WCT and Dobbs Ferry Lutheran Church come together for 3 months of shared learning and worship with Pastor Chris Mietlowski and Rabbi Billy Dreskin.

  • Partnering with hundreds of congregations of all denominations, Woodlands opens its door to a national celebration of Shabbat Across America.

  • WCT reinvigorates its participation in Westchester’s Midnight Run project (providing meals, clothing and friendship to NYC’s neediest) by sponsoring Midnight Run Shabbat celebrations where meals for the Run are packed up during Friday evening’s Oneg Shabbat.

  • Steve’s HOPE sponsors several busloads of congregants attending the Million Mom March in Washington advocating for stronger gun laws.

  • WCT Social Action sponsors Russ Cottage, finding congregants spending time playing and tutoring and chatting with the sweetest group of young boys living at Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry.

  • Mitzvah Night in our high school Academy. 7th-12th grades gather for an evening of doing good.

  • WCT “kid” Lisa Izes, daughter of Lois and Jay, becomes Rabbi Lisa Izes.

  • WCT and Dobbs Ferry Lutheran Church (under the auspices of A Front Porch Community) jointly produce “Good Works Day,” 24 hours of loving deeds in and around our neighborhoods.

  • Rabbinic Intern Leora Kaye bids WCT farewell.

2000-2001

  • Adult Retreat is smashing success at the Workmen’s Circle Camp Kinder Ring Lodge in Hopewell Junction.

  • A new rabbinic intern, Darren Levine, arrives. He spends two years with us.

  • On Simchat Torah, 18 temple members read Torah for the first time, as the first graduates of the Ben/Bat Binah program.

  • Rabbi Lawrence Kushner is scholar-in-residence. His theme is “Jewish Mysticism and Spirituality in Our Daily Lives.”

  • Annual HUC Senior Cantorial Concert (held at WCT) honors Cantor Burton Borovetz, WCT Cantor 1979-85.

  • Jewish musical artist Danny Maseng spends a Shabbat Shirah Eve at Woodlands. It’s unforgettable!

  • “A Taste of Judaism,” three sessions especially designed by the Reform movement for members of an interfaith family, is taught by Rabbi Dreskin.

  • Woodlands begins collecting toys for needy kids through the “Toys for Tots” and “Gift of Chanukah” projects, reaching out both to Jews and to non-Jews.

  • Exotic Shabbat is back. This year, “Frank Sinatra Shabbat!” Oy!

  • Bikur Cholim program is initiated, exploring ways that WCT members can reach out to one another in their times of need. In a few years, this will become our Chesed Caring Community Committee.

  • “Les Miz Purim!” Need we say more?

  • “Uri Shir – Awaken and Sing!” A Shabbat evening consisting almost entirely of music.

  • Woodlands hosts the Rivertowns Jewish Consortium’s Adult Jewish Learning Institute (AJLI). Four Wednesday evenings of classes taught by Rabbi Billy Dreskin, Cantor Jonathan Gordon, Temple Educator Harriet Levine, Rabbi Manny Vinas and Rabbi Barry Kenter.

  • Cantor Ellen Dreskin, former cantor and educator of WCT and Associate Dean of HUC-JIR, speaks at our Shabbat service on the occasion of HUC-JIR’s 125th birthday.

  • Membership Recognition Shabbat honors those who have been part of WCT for 20 years and longer. The list is surprisingly long – 110 families!

  • Our new Interfaith Seder welcomes guests from Dobbs Ferry Lutheran Church and St. Joseph of Arimathea Church. Temple members host at each table.

2001-2002

  • Lance Rosenthal becomes temple president.

  • Future of Woodlands capital campaign picks up where ATID left off, committed to raising $3 million for building a new sanctuary and renovating many parts of the original facility.

  • After an initial try-out period, 7th Grade Family Torah – attended by all B’nai Mitzvah and at least one parent – becomes one of WCT’s favorite learning programs.

  • Recognizing there while we pursue peace around the globe, there is much for us to do at home, “Lashon Hara – Hurtful Speech” begins appearing monthly in temple bulletin.

  • As younger children grow up but refuse to abandon their favorite monthly Shabbat celebration,

  • Tot Shabbat is renamed as Kidz Shabbat.

  • “I Hated Religious School!” makes its debut appearance as a 2nd introduction to Jewish learning for those who weren’t exactly enamored of it as children.

  • Ellen and Billy Dreskin lead the WCT “Hebrew Shabbaton,” teaching Hebrew reading in one 7-hour marathon.

  • WCT celebrates its 36th birthday with the publication of its new cookbook, “What’s Cooking Tonight?”

  • Woodlands holds its first healing service, a “Healing Havdalah.”

  • 9/11 devastates yet galvanizes our community. The High Holy Days become a time of shared grieving, support, and commitment to helping.

  • With “Uri Shir – Awaken & Sing,” WCT tries out a Friday night consisting mainly of song.

  • Famed activist and former Vice-President of the UAHC Al Vorspan spends a weekend as our Social Action Scholar, sponsored by Steve’s H.O.P.E.

  • WCT hosts the 9th Annual Cantorial Concert by seniors at the HUC-JIR School of Sacred Music. Funds raised provide needed scholarships for cantorial students.

  • Ugandan Rabbi Gershom Sizomu spends Shabbat evening with us, inspiring members to dedicate themselves to bringing water and electricity to the Abayudaya.

  • Bob Dylan honored during this year’s “Exotic Shabbat” service.

  • Ellen and Billy Dreskin bring a “Fiddler on the Roof Purimspiel” for Purim.

  •  Amid mild (but resolvable) controversy, announcement is made that WCT will locate to Greenville Community Reformed Church (in Scarsdale) for services during the construction of our new sanctuary.

  • Temple member Corey Friedlander speaks at the UAHC Biennial Convention in Boston on being single, gay, and comfortable, in his not especially single, nor gay, yet exceedingly comfortable synagogue, Woodlands Community Temple. He quotes another temple member, Vicki Armour-Hileman, as summing it up with these words: “I guess the final thing I have to say is that whatever category of singleness a person fits into – never married, separated, divorced, or widow(er)ed, straight or gay – there is only one communal solution to any feelings of unease the individual may feel. It’s a pretty obvious solution, and it’s a pretty traditional one. And that is to attend to the sacredness of each human person, to cherish the uniqueness and individuality of each, and to welcome each man or woman or child, not as part of a family unit (or not), but as a fellow traveler on life’s journey, seeking spiritual nourishment, education, and community. Luckily this attitude of attending to the individual, recognizing each of us as a separate soul, caring about heeding each person’s needs, and inviting each to share his or her talents and gifts with the community is something that Woodlands is very, very good at.”

  • Cantor Jonathan organizes Interfaith Concert in celebration of Martin Luther King Day.

  • Woodlands’ Rosh Chodesh Group for the study of women’s lives in Judaism is formed.

  • WCT joins Synagogue 2000 and twenty other Westchester synagogues to engage in a 3-year process of learning and reflection about Judaism and the synagogue.

  • Membership Recognition Shabbat honors all past presidents for their dedication and commitment to our temple.

  • Beged Kefet returns to Woodlands as part of WCT’s Coffee House.

  • Celebration of ten years with Harriet Levine as our temple educator.

  • On May 4, 2002, Woodlands ceremonially breaks ground for the new Sanctuary.

  • After two wonderful years, WCT bids farewell to rabbinic intern Darren Levine.

  • A bittersweet evening of farewell – with dinner, shared memories, learning, and a closing ritual– closes the doors of our old Sanctuary on Saturday, May 18, 2002.

  • Our old but much-loved Sanctuary is pulled down on June 18, 2002.

  • High schoolers Kim Roth (Junior Youth Rep) and Erica Bern (Social Action Chair) are elected to the NFTY Westchester/Fairfield regional board.

  • Summer outdoor services are held at St. Joseph of Arimathea Church during construction.

  • HUC rabbinical student Craig Axler embarks upon a summer internship with us.

  • Temple offices relocate for the summer to 101 Executive Blvd in Elmsford.

2002-2003

  • High Holy Days services are held at Greenville Community Reformed Church. Two “seatings” are necessary to accommodate our large numbers. After spending the first half-hour of Rosh Hashanah without machzorim, things go smoothly. All are good sports.

  • During construction, High School Academy classes meet at St. Joseph of Arimathea Church.

  • Service of Memoriam & Tribute on the 1st anniversary of 9/11 is presented jointly with our new friends at Greenville Community Reformed Church.

  • WCT celebrates its 36th birthday with an evening of dinner and dancing at the Willow Ridge Country Club.

  • JCC on the Hudson, originally set aside as space for worship while the new Sanctuary is built, becomes our primary worship space – not because of any theological objection to Greenville Church, but because the JCC offered a far greater sense of the intimacy WCT has always engendered.

  • WCT hires its first full-time Youth Director, Nicole Butler. Rabbinic intern program is discontinued.

  • Pastor Jack Elliott and Rabbi Billy Dreskin teach “A Shared Taste” of Christianity and Judaism to WCT and Greenville Community Reformed Church together.

  • Gary Boys, Professor of Practical Theology at the Union Theological Seminary, serves as scholar-in-residence. The program is shared jointly with Greenville Community Reformed Church as an opportunity for important dialogue with our Christian neighbors.

  • WCT members are invited to join another synagogue, the Moses Synagogue in Mbale, Uganda. “Associate Membership” there will help raise needed funds to bring them water and electricity.

  • Fawaz Gerges, Professor of International Affairs and Middle Eastern Studies at Sarah Lawrence College, serves as Steve’s H.O.P.E. Fellow.

  • Acclaimed Jewish singer/composer Julie Silver joins us for a Shabbat evening service.

  • The music of Motown is honored (and spoofed!) during this year’s “Exotic Shabbat” service.

  • In response to the downturn in the economy, WCT forms a “Job Mart” to help match those seeking employment with those offering it.

  • Upon its unusual convergence with St. Patrick’s Day, “St. Paddy’s Purim” comes to Woodlands!

  • New sanctuary is dedicated on Friday evening, May 9, 2003. Clergy from neighboring churches and synagogues attend. Gala celebration is held that Saturday evening.

  • Membership Recognition Shabbat honors all families who have a child that has graduated from our 12th grade Academy program.

  • Longtime WCT member Mark Solomon is honored for 30 years of teaching in our religious school.

  • HUC rabbinical student Judith Siegal embarks upon a summer internship with us.

2003-2004

  • 250 bags of groceries are delivered to the Food Van during the High Holy Days.

  • Temple member Vicki Armour-Hileman begins her rabbinical studies at HUC-JIR.

  • The “Chesed Caring Community” committee arrives to WCT, acting on our growing sense that, in addition to looking after the needs of good folks the world over, we must also promise to look after each other.

  • Ellen Dreskin introduces the topic of Kabbalah – Jewish mysticism – to WCT’s adult learning program.

  • Rabbi Billy introduces Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) and his unusual world-view to WCT’s adult learning program.

  • Jewish Journey Groups, an innovation of Synagogue 2000, begin to crop up at Woodlands. These are small group gathering together for Jewish learning where “life meets text” and we find our own stories bound up in those of our ancestors.

  • Water arrives to the Abayudaya of Nabagoya Hill in Uganda, financed by WCT Associate Memberships in the Moses Synagogue.

  • Mitzvah Month, an entire month of tzedakah activities, is sponsored by our Social Action committee.

  • Aaron Knappstein, of our new “sister congregation” Cong. Gescher LaMassoret in Cologne, Germany, speaks at a Woodlands Shabbat evening service.

  • Having bid farewell to WCT’s annual sponsoring of the HUC Cantorial Concert (it now moves around the entire New York area to expand its audience and fundraising potential), Cantor Jonathan welcomes the famed Zamir Chorale to perform in our new Sanctuary.

  • Danny Maseng spends a truly unforgettable weekend as our scholar-in-residence.

  • Martha Dubinsky and Mike Witkowski volunteer to lovingly advise our high school youth group until a new Youth Director can be found.

  • The Woodlands Coffee House receives the UAHC’s Epstein Communicate Award.

  • WCT begins collecting turkeys each Thanksgiving for distribution via ARCS to needy Westchester families.

  • Progressive Dinner enjoyed by all.

  • Our new Judaica Shop opens for business.

  • The UAHC, our parent body, changes its name to URJ, the Union for Reform Judaism.

  • Corey Friedlander becomes our 2nd lay rabbinic intern.

  • After ten years, Beged Kefet, featuring Ellen and Billy Dreskin, releases their 3rd CD.

  • Merri Lovinger Arian joins Cantor Jonathan for an unforgettable Shabbat Shirah evening service of music, learning and, above all, joy.

  • sTORAHtelling, a dynamic fusion of contemporary theater and ancient Torah ritual, comes to Woodlands. Temple member Susan Brubaker emerges as ongoing director of this project dedicated to reclaiming the art of telling our sacred Jewish stories.

  • WCT joins hundreds of thousands at the March for Women’s Lives in Washington, DC.

  • Jewish rock star Rick Recht brings his band and “Shabbat Alive” to Woodlands.

  • On one very beautiful Shabbat morning, special guest musical artist Peri Smilow leads “Worship with the Wires Exposed.”

  • “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” Purim rocks Woodlands as our High School Academy students steal the show, the hearts and the funny bones of the entire congregation.

  • WCT’s Future of Woodlands capital campaign reaches the $2 million mark. $1 million to go!

  • Kabbalat Shabbarbecue makes its debut appearance.

  • Temple member Roberta Roos receives the Westchester Jewish Conference’s Distinguished Service Award for their work promoting the Abayudaya Jews of Uganada.

2004-2005

  • Scott Newman arrives to WCT as our 2nd full-time Youth Director.

  • David Fligel becomes temple president.

  • While the new lawn takes time to grow strong and healthy, High Holy Days are held at SUNY- Purchase Performing Arts Center.

  • Rabbi David Nelson is scholar-in-residence.

  • “It’s a Girl Thing!” is introduced as our sixth grade girls’ Rosh Hodesh group. 

  • The New Campaign for the Future of Woodlands is introduced to complete our capital campaign.

  • Pastor Chris Mietlowski and Rabbi Billy Dreskin co-teach “One God, One Family,” opportunities for shared, interdenominational learning.

  • Jewish Journey Groups Facilitator Training begins preparing WCT members to lead small learning experiences.

  • Rabbi Lisa Izes arrives in December, co-leading the congregation with Rabbi Billy for one month, then serving as Sabbatical Rabbi while Billy is away for six more.

  • WCT reaches its membership cap of 400 families. Board of Trustees, in a difficult and painful vote of 10-6-1, decides to maintain the cap and begin a waiting list for temple membership.

  • Purim celebrates “350 Years of (funny) American Jewish History.”

  • Jazz Shabbat, with composer/artist Mark Bloom, returns to the Woodlands bimah.

  • Under the leadership of Cantor Jonathan, WCT begins its participation in The Jewish and Muslim Mosaic Project.

  • Kidz Shabbat gives Saturday morning a try. Kidz love it!

  • WCT receives the URJ Commission on Social Action’s Irving J. Fain Social Action Award for its work with the Abayudaya community in Uganda.

  • Cantor Jonathan establishes the S’forim Forum, a Jewish book discussion group to be held on Shabbat afternoons.

  • Draft copy of new siddur, Makom Shelibi Oheyv, makes first appearance at Shabbat services.

  • Future of Woodlands reaches $2.5 million. $500,000 to go!

  • While the High Holy Days at SUNY-Purchase were successful, congregational opinion urged us to come home, which is what the Board of Trustees voted to do.

2005-2006

  • Rabbi Billy Dreskin and Cantor Ellen Dreskin are honored for many decades of service to Reform Jewish youth with Lifetime Membership in the North American Federation of Temple Youth (NFTY).

  • Jeanne Bodin and Roberta Roos facilitate a highly successful Jewish Journey Group, “My Life as a Sacred Journey.”

  • Tent Sale raises $15,000.

  • An experiment in lay-led Shabbat services begins. Members are intensively trained to assume pulpit responsibilities (rabbinic or cantorial) and are joined by one of our clergy as they lead a Shabbat evening service.

  • On December 31, 2005, our Woodlands’ Future of Woodlands capital campaign is completed as we reached our goal of raising $3 million.

  • 10th, 11th and 12th graders join the rabbi and Youth Director for“Civil Rights: Our Jewish Journey” to Atlanta, Birmingham, Montgomery and Selma, paid for in part by Steve’s H.O.P.E. Three months later, the rabbi would take a group of WCT adults on the same journey.

  • High school youth group adopts a new name: WoodSY.

  • The Dolls for Darfur campaign protests genocide in Sudan. Giant postcards are mailed to President Bush and hand-delivered to Nita Lowey.

  • The Afro-Semitic Experience brings jazz and black-white friendship to our bimah in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Shabbat.

  • Woodlands celebrates its 40th birthday with a Matzo Ball Bash. Alan Horowitz is honored as our Founding President. March 18, 2006, is proclaimed Woodlands Community Temple Day in the Town of Greenburgh. $21,000 was raised from the gala and journal.

  • Dr. Joel Hoffman is our scholar-in-residence.

  • Rabbi Billy teaches “Between the Lines: Finding Ourselves in Ancient Midrashim.”

  • The religious school adopts Project Tikva, a program in the Ukraine to care for homeless, abandoned and abused Jewish children in Odesssa.

  • First “Group-ruf” offering an aufruf-like Shabbat evening blessing (complete with candy!) to any WCT couple.

  • Ellen and Billy Dreskin bring a “Mary Poppins Purimspiel” for Purim.

  • Membership Recognition Shabbat honors WCT “kids” who have grown up here and returned as adult congregants.

  • Had Gadya Project is introduced by our Social Action committee, encouraging congregants to purchase goats through Heifer International and help 3rd world families become self-sufficient.

  • WCT hosts its first political rally, with Rep. Nita Lowey speaking out against genocide in Darfur, Rabbis Les Bronstein and Rick Jacobs sharing a Jewish view of the tragedy, and musical guests Riverrun, Jonathan Gordon, and Ellen Dreskin elevating the spirit of the evening.

  • Jews, Christians, and Muslims sharing Chinese food? Can’t get more “melting-pot” than that, as WCT and Dobbs Ferry Lutheran Church co-hosted an evening of dinner and conversation with Dr. Mahjabeen Hassan and members of the Westchester Muslim community at the Golden Wok Café in Ardsley.

  • WCT buses to Washington DC to stand in solidarity with the Reform movement and the oppressed population of Darfur.

2006-07

  • Chuck Fishman becomes temple president.

  • For the first time, WCT promotes opportunity to inscribe bookplates in the High Holy Days makhzor, Gates of Repentance.

  • Temple “kid” Eric Jacobson, now a conservation biologist, returns to WCT to co-facilitate with Rabbi Billy a course entitled “Yankel Appleseed ... It’s Not Easy Bein’ (Jewishly) Green.” Enthusiasm overflows resulting in creation of WCT’s Environmental Task Force, one of very few temple committees to feature young people around the meeting table.

  • WCT participates in “Save Darfur Now” rally in Central Park.

  • 20 members of WCT become B’nai Binah during Simkhat Torah.

  • Mitzvah Day returns, this time with “The Great Mitzvah Day Kugel Cook-off” and Beged Kefet.

  • Harriet and Len Levine lead highly successful temple trip to Israel.

  • Rabbi Billy serves as “producer” for URJ Regional Biennial Shabbat worship complete with professionally arranged R&B accompaniment and the very first elements that will become “Visual Worship.” Cantor Jonathan and Woodlands Singers provide vital vocal backup. 80 temple members trek out to Stamford to watch.

  • The Confirmation-Graduation-Consecration photo gallery returns. All photographs have been professionally digitized, re-sized and re-framed.

  • Woodlands leads the way in Westchester’s efforts to send Solar Cookers to Darfur, reducing the need to embark upon dangerous hikes to find wood to burn.

  • The “Chesed Caring Community” makes its mark by leading a (soon-to-be annual) Shabbat service, highlighting its philosophy and some of its many good works.

  • Temple youth group WoodSY leads congregation in switchover to energy-responsible CFL bulbs by ceremonially changing the Ark’s ner tamid from incandescent to compact fluorescent. Congregants are encouraged to “light a new light for Hanukkah” and replace at least one light in their home with a CFL. Special Hanukkah reading is placed on temple website for the occasion.

  • Multimedia Shabbat Hanukkah service, “A Celebration of Lights,” provides next step in creation of “Visual Worship” ... a service entirely accompanied by dual computer-operated slide shows.

  • Scholar-in-Residence Rabbi Jan Katzew “The Talmud: Are Reform Jews Hearing (Ancient) Voices?”.

  • Fundraising begins to finance creation of three Torah mantles to replace our old, well-worn and deteriorating ones.

  • Yes, after all these years, Project Ezra is still going strong! A new generation of families joins our own old-timers in reaching out to the Lower East Side’s old-timers.

  • 18 high school students attend L’taken political action seminar in Washington, DC, sponsored by the URJ Religious Action Center.

  • Social Action Committee provides “A Month of Desserts” to residents of Valhalla Residence, a transitional shelter for men and women.

  • 23 members of WCT join with Dobbs Ferry Lutheran Church and Emanuel Lutheran Church (Pleasantville) to rebuild homes in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Over 100 WCT families donate more than $17,000 to finance the trip.

  • 12th grader Maya Glasser helps lead music at Shabbat worship in February. We all wonder if there’s a cantor in her future.

  • Rabbi Billy joins with Rev. Joe Gilmore (of South Presbyterian Church in Dobbs Ferry) to offer “With a Cross and a Star, Hope Begets Healing.” A dialogue between two religious communities on bringing positive change to the world.

  • Whose Line Is It Anyway? Purim returns to Woodlands. Megillat Esther is projected onto screens as are “live news feeds” featuring crazy Purim reports from around the world.

  • Popular Jewish rocker Rick Recht appears with his band on our bimah with “Shabbat Alive!”

  • Temple member Joy Solomon shares a poignant and insightful perspective on Judaism and growing old.

  • Rabbi Billy serves as guest preacher at St. Joseph of Arimathea Church.

  • Update on the Hyunh family. “Boat People” from Vietnam, sponsored by WCT in 1979, nearly three decades later ... Daughter Ngahn is married and has a PhD. Son Tich Ha is married, has two kids and is a banker. Son Tich Boi graduated from Brandeis University, is married, and does research at a Boston hospital. Mother Kim Ly has worked very hard to pass tests that allow her to do hair, nails and facials, and has opened her own salon. Her husband was never able to leave Vietnam and died there.

  • Mutual Ongoing Review is a method of assessment that views staff and lay leaders as sharing equal stakes in the welfare of our synagogue. As in any long-term relationship, emphasis is on working together to build strength and success, rather than placing responsibility on one or the other. Temple member and director of the URJ Department of Synagogue Management is guiding our MOR teams.

  • “Visual Worship” arrives. Siddurim are left outside the Sanctuary as all prayers are projected for the first time onto screens.

  • Once more, WCT hosts a rally on behalf of the beleaguered residents of Darfur. Congresswoman Nita Lowey is featured presenter.

  • Task Force on Teacher Recruitment, led by Rabbi Joan Farber, envisions plan to keep our religious school faculty strong. Temple educator Harriet Levine sees this as necessary for the future of our program and hopes to see a viable project in place before she retires.

  • Tikkun Layl Shavuot involves two dozen professional and lay group leaders of two 25-minute “Bayt Midrash” learning blitzes. Our Confirmands and their families join dozens of congregants in the fun.

  • Shaliakh K’hilah Corey Friedlander and just-turned-Rabbi Geoff Mitelman lead what may be their final summer service together.

  • Cantor Jonathan Gordona celebrates 25 years as a cantor at a special Coffeehouse in his honor.

  • Cinco de Mayo Casino Night.

2007-08

  • 4th year HUC student Erin Glazer arrives to help WCT revive its Rabbinic Intern program. Three years of funding for the program is provided through donations.

  • Rabbi Billy takes the “Food Stamp Challenge,” living on $3 a day for one week in order to understand how millions of Americans struggle to make it on Food Stamps all year long. Yom Kippur Food Van donations triple.

  • Rabbi Billy challenges WCT to take the “Just Journeys” pledge, promising (when staying in hotels) to keep tidier rooms and leave bigger tips, both to treat hotel workers with greater compassion for the difficult lives they struggle to manage.

  • WCT’s new Environmental Task Force sponsors a new Sukkah made entirely of indigenous, organic materials.

  • Adult Ed Committee wows congregation with comprehensive catalogue of the coming year’s learning events. First up: Rabbi Robbie Harris, JTS Prof of Bible, teaches commentaries in “Unfolding the Text.”

  • For Simchat Torah, Ellen and Billy Dreskin’s music “Simchat Torah Revue” returns, accompanied by a full band AND the Woodlands Singers! Simchat Torah itself features Visual Worship complete with TorahCam so everyone can see the verses being read in the completely unrolled Scroll.

  • Jazz/Jewish music synthesists, “The Afro-Semitic Experience,” joins Zach Hart on our Shabbat morning bimah as he becomes a Bar Mitzvah and they show us how to really ratchet up the energy.

  • New year-long adult ed program, “Petach,” brings twenty congregants together weekly for an hour of Hebrew and an hour of Jewish studies.

  • Rabbi Andrew Davids, Director of ARZA, speaks at Woodlands, sharing a significant vision of Zionism that includes social justice for all, on both sides of the borders.

  • Rabbi Aaron Kintu Moses, spiritual leader of the Abayudaya, visits Woodlands for Shabbat.

  • Rabbi Billy travels to Chappaqua to install Rabbi Geoff Mitelman as rabbi at Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester.

  • “A Joyful Noise!” arrives. 6-piece instrumental ensemble, with 4 vocalists at the front, leading our congregation in raucous, joyous music and prayer.

  • Temple member Julius Rabinowitz teaches popular session on The Zohar.

  • Cantor Ellen Dreskin returns to teach during Friday night and Saturday morning worship: “Digging Deeply into Prayer.”

  • Rabbinic intern Erin Glazer begins “Café Ivrit,” a place to speak Hebrew.

  • Finally finally, WCT’s new siddur, Makom Shelibi Oheyv, makes its entrance.

  • Another first: Triplets Morgan, Nikki and Casey Styranovski, daughter of Shari and John, granddaughters of Lois and Bernie Bacharach, are named on our bimah.

  • WCT’s new Torah mantles are dedicated during the High Holy Days. Designed by Jeanette Kuvin Oren.

  • The annual Interfaith Thanksgiving Service is hosted by our brand new neighbors, the First Community Church of the Nazarene (on Saw Mill River Rd). A truly wonderful time is had by all!

  • Jewish rocker Dan Nichols appears in concert at Woodlands.

  • In response to the rabbi’s High Holy Days sermons on revitalizing worship, a new column appears in the bulletin: “Iyyun T’filah ... Focusing Our Prayer.” Each month, a brief look at how one might find greater meaning in prayer.

  • The ARZA/Israel Committee is revived, co-chaired by Roberta Roos and David Griff. First projects include revamping of Israel page on temple website to include current events, first- person perspectives, and available projects.

  • Leaders of local churches, plus a Moslem guest, make presentations to our high school Academy. The goal is to prepare a new generation “to better the world in partnership with God and each other.”

  • Beloved guest artist Merri Arian returns to our bimah for Shabbat Shirah.

  • WCT and the Westchester Darfur Coalition promote Hanukkah gift-giving participation in The Backpack Project, to bring school and hygiene supplies to children in Chad refugee camps.

  • Adult Ed brings temple members to B’nai Jeshurun (in New York City) and Bet Am Shalom (in White Plains) to expand our Shabbat experience.

  • Scholar-in-Residence is Cantor Benjie Ellen Schiller: “Jewish Culture through the Lens of Synagogue Music.”

  • Rabbi Billy takes “A Joyful Noise!” and “Visual Worship” to the URJ Biennial Convention in San Diego. 800 attend the service, 200 attend the workshop to learn how to do it.

  • Rabbi Billy teaches “Postcards from the Dumping Grounds,” an examination of the Book of Job.

  • Temple educator Harriet Levine teaches “Jewish Communities Throughout the World.”

  • Cantor Jonathan teaches “The Pageant of Jewish Music.”

  • WCT is honored (for the second time!) by the URJ for sending more kids than any other synagogue to our regional summer camps: Eisner and Crane Lake.

  • An early 6:00 congregational service is offered (in place of the 8:00 service) to see if young families will attend. They do, primary school-age children sitting quietly next to seasoned “old timers.” Everyone had a lovely time. Question now: How often will such services be offered?

  • 20 Westchester cantors, including Cantor Jonathan, join together in “Kol Hazzanim,” a concert to raise funds for the Westchester Jewish Conference.

  • Plans get underway to celebrate Rabbi Billy’s 13th year at Woodlands. He’s to become Bar Mitzvah a second time!

  • Cantor Jonathan’s Outrageously Enjoyable, No Holds Barred, Very Funny Purim!

  • Rabbinic intern Erin Glazer teaches “Women and Violence in the Book of Judges.”

  • Temple member Lew Stiefel’s documentary on last year’s Katrina trip, entitled “Mission to Mississippi,” is selected for exhibition at the New York Independent Film and Video Festival.

  • February is designated as WCT Winter Hunger Appeal.

Fri, April 19 2024 11 Nisan 5784