Temple Beth Tikvah was established in 1956 by a group of 15 Jewish families eager to come together to meet, study and worship, and to provide a place where their children could learn about their Jewish heritage. Within the next few years, the fledgling congregation received its first Torah, affiliated with the Reform Movement, and chose to name the new Temple, Beth Tikvah; our House of Hope.
1960: Rabbi Shai Shacknai
By 1960, the congregation had swelled to 150 families and welcomed Rabbi Shai Shacknai as its first full-time spiritual leader; it was his first and only pulpit. Our beloved Rabbi Shacknai guided the young, committed Wayne Jewish community through its early years until November 1969, when both the Temple and the entire Wayne community suffered a tragic loss with his untimely passing. We continue to memorialize his memory with an annual lecture. The lecture began in 1971 at the suggestion of Rabbi Shacknai’ s successor, Rabbi Israel Dresner, in collaboration with Rabbi Shacknai’ s widow, Shirley Shacknai Freedman.
1966: Cantor Charles Romalis
Arriving at Temple Beth Tikvah to co-officiate with Rabbi Shacknai, Cantor Romalis set out to create an atmosphere of joy and celebration through his cantorate and to create a wonderful and meaningful musical legacy second to none. In the process, he also helped ensure that Temple Beth Tikvah serves as a spiritual home to everyone.
After 50 years of loyal and dedicated service, the title of Cantor Emeritus was bestowed, a man who embodies the title Sh’liach Tsibur, a sacred term for what it means to be a cantor for life: a messenger for the community. He has a gift for focusing on the positive aspects of life and making people feel good and better about their own lives. He truly is the eternal optimist.
1970: Rabbi Israel Dresner
As the congregation moved to regain its spirit and hope following the death of Rabbi Shacknai, the Temple retained Rabbi Israel S. Dresner, who ably served our congregation for 25 years.
Rabbi Dresner was the foremost rabbinic participant in the Civil Rights struggle of the 1960s, and was one of the three rabbis who was closest to Dr. Martin Luther King. Rabbi Dresner was the first rabbi arrested in the freedom struggle in 1961 in an interfaith clergy freedom ride.
He retired in 1995 and was appointed Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Beth Tikvah. Rabbi Dresner was and continues to be instrumental in transmitting the beauty of our heritage and in teaching Jewish values to children and adults alike, with an emphasis on social justice.
1995: Rabbi Stephen Wylen
Rabbi Stephen Wylen served Tikvah from 1995 to 2014. Rabbi Wylen combined his love of writing with his love of sharing Jewish teachings by writing books about Judaism. His first published book Settings of Silver has been for many years the most popular college introduction to Judaism. Rabbi Wylen wrote the textbook on Jewish holidays for the Reform movement – The Book of the Jewish Year. He, together with a special Editorial Committee, edited and created the Temple Beth Tikvah Siddur, which the congregation used for 15 years until it was changed to Mishkan T’Filah in 2017.
2016: Rabbi/Cantor Meeka Simerly
Temple Beth Tikvah’s 60th year commemorated a major milestone for the Temple: the installation of the Temple’s first female Rabbi, Rabbi/Cantor Meeka Simerly. After moving from Haifa, Israel to California to study music in 1995, she rediscovered her Jewish roots, and fell in love with Reform Judaism. Rabbi Meeka became musically and “Jewishly” active in several congregations and organizations, co-leading services, teaching Hebrew, Torah trope, love of Israel, and music. Rabbi Meeka served as Cantor at Temple Emanu-El in San Jose, California for 10 years. During that time, Rabbi Meeka continued her schooling, where she earned her second Masters and Ordination as a Rabbi. In 2016, Meeka proudly became the Rabbi of Temple Beth Tikvah.
Future: Looking Forward…
The temple’s leaders and congregants continue a dynamic, progressive heritage of prayer, strong social conscience, engaging in acts of Tikkun Olam (deeds to help repair the world), and teaching, learning, and practicing Judaism. Temple Beth Tikvah remains committed to supporting the diverse spiritual, educational, cultural, and social needs of our temple family. Our House of Hope is far more than just a house. It is a home for the Jewish community in which we find God’s presence, values, and teachings. We use these as the foundation upon which to build a strong and meaningful Jewish life for each of our families. We invite you to visit us at our spiritual home. We hope that you will want to make it your home as well. Our door is always open. We look forward to extending a warm and sincere welcome at any time. Come and experience the spirit of Reform Jewish Life.