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Mayor Sheila Brillson announced that June 14, 2003 has been proclaimed Rabbi Karl Richter Day in Michigan City. “Rabbi Karl Richter was the Rabbi for Sinai Temple, Michigan City, Indiana for 26 years. When he retired in 1976, he was enthusiastically elected Rabbi Emeritus,” said Mayor Brillson. “He is considered the divine spark of inspiration for Sinai Temple, and he has been an active leader in our community for decades.”
The first Jewish settlement in our area flourished in LaPorte between 1850 and 1870. In those days Jewish people living in Michigan City worshiped in LaPorte. Jewish settlers came to Michigan City from Germany during the Civil War period. Through the influx of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe after 1890, the first congregation to flourish was Adath Israel which built a synagogue on Seventh Street in 1907.
The orthodox congregation held regular religious services and maintained a religious school, employing teachers and rabbis. In the late 1960’s the building fell victim to Urban Renewal. Sinai Temple has in its possession the Eternal Light from that synagogue.
In 1900, the Oheb Sholom Cemetery Association was founded which acquired a part of Greenwood Cemetery for Jewish Burials. This cemetery was taken over by Sinai Congregation in 1947. In 1961 a new gate and entrance monument were dedicated and the name of the cemetery was changed to “Sinai Temple Cemetery.”
The first reform Jewish services in Michigan City were held in a rented hall during the high holy days of 1904. Under the leadership of Moses Moritz, a congregation was organized in 1912 or 1913 which adopted the name “Sinai Congregation.”
The post-war period initiated the most rapid growth of membership. In the fall of 1945, Sinai Congregation affiliated with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations passed a resolution to engage a resident rabbi.
The increase in membership made the need for a new Temple Center imperative. In 1947, a lot for a new Temple was acquired on Franklin Street. On May 4, 1952 the official groundbreaking ceremony took place at the site of the new Temple. On the weekend of May 1-3, 1953, the new Sinai Temple was dedicated with solemn worship services, a gala banquet and a celebration of the Religious School.
The years ahead will hold many challenges for Sinai Temple, given the ongoing changes in the demographics of our community. With continued faith, dedication, commitment and participation, there will be many more years in the life our congregation to be added to our rich history.
This material was taken from the “Chai Five 90th Anniversary Celebration” 2003 publication. Sinai Temple, Michigan City, IN.