STERLING – The year was 1949, and the large upstairs room was filled with friends, family and even Lester Weinstine’s teachers from Central School.
The party was for Weinstine’s bar mitzvah, the first to be held in the building that would one day become Temple Sholom.
The unassuming building at 510 E. 10th St. is full of memories, said David “Abie” Abrahams, a former congregant and local reporter who now is a rabbi in Fairport, N.Y.
Abrahams returned to Sterling this weekend to lead the synagogue’s celebration in honor of its 100th anniversary.
“It just seemed natural,” he said. “I had been a part of this congregation for the last 35 years in one way or another. It was an honor to be asked, and there is no way I would ever tell this congregation no.”
The narrow worship area is lined with auditorium seating, about 40 of the seats filled with congregants Saturday morning. The focal point is an off-white curtain embroidered with a Torah and the Ten Commandments tablets, which hides three Torahs, including one that survived the Holocaust.
In honor of the celebration, all the blue lights on the memorial board were lit. Usually, the lights are lit on the anniversary of the congregant’s death, but, congregant Margo Jakobs said, they thought it’d be appropriate to remember everyone this weekend.
Weinstine’s favorite part of the building, he said half-jokingly, is the air conditioning, because he remembers when the building lacked the luxury.
“The second thing is, of course, as a kid growing up here ... it used to be a great place to play upstairs,” said the Morrison attorney. “You could run and slide on the wooden floors. It was terrific.”
Abrahams remembers a tablecloth embroidered with a new star of David each time a child celebrated their bat or bar mitzvah.
“My children grew up in this congregation,” he said. “They had their b’nai mitzvah here. I was married in this congregation. I’ve taught in this congregation. I’ve seen kids grow up and have children of their own and maintain Judaism in their own homes. I feel a very strong connection to Temple Sholom.”
Sterling’s first synagogue opened Sept. 30, 1912, at 317 E. Third St., according to a 1984 Daily Gazette article written by Abrahams and other research by the temple’s congregants.
But since 1945, the Jewish community, drawn from four counties, has gathered in the former Sterling Steam Bakery building.
About 12 to 15 families make up the “close-knit group,” Jakobs said. Its numbers have dwindled from a 75-family high during the post-World War II years.
For more information
Go to templesholomsterling.com for more information about the synagogue and its history.