12. Tishri 5784
(26. September 2023)
The first Jewish settlement in our area flourished in La Porte County between 1850 and 1870. In those days Jewish people living in Michigan City worshiped in the city of La Porte. 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. (In 1900 a cemetery association was founded in Greenwood Cemetery and re-dedicated 1947.)
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 and passed a resolution to engage a resident rabbi.
The increase in membership made the need for a new building imperative. In 1947, a lot for a new temple and religious school was acquired on Franklin Street. On May 4,1952 the official groundbreaking ceremony took place at the site of the new Temple. The building was completed in May of 1953.
After 26 years as rabbi, Rabbi Karl Richter retired in 1976. He became rabbi emeritus, considered the spark of inspiration for Sinai Temple and an active leader in our community for decades.
Sinai Temple has had the blessing of a line of distinguished rabbis, who have brought its congregants to reflect and act on our shared values with pride and dedication.
Our synagogue is resplendent with bronze plaques, carved tablets, and hundreds of memorials to and from our members through the years.
Throughout time, Jewish people have migrated—many to La Porte County. They made their own noteworthy difference, leaving their mark in the history of the area. Sinai Temple became the core of their Jewish life and, in the process, Jews brought lasting enhancements in industry and culture. They were able to change the face of not only a city but an entire area.
Isadore Levine, Attorney – the first Jewish Supreme Court Justice in the State of Indiana
Irving Solomon, Industrialist – the first United Nations Delegate (and a dear friend of Eleanor Roosevelt); vice president of the American Jewish Committee
Mortimer Winski, Inventor – founder of Northern Indiana Steel Supply, and philanthropist
Through the foresight and benevolence of Sinai Temple members, these legacies continue to enhance lives throughout the Michigan City and NW Indiana area:
Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute
The first summer camp of the Reform Jewish Movement, Olin Sang Union Institute, was founded in 1952 in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, through the philanthropic support of the Olin and Sang families. In 1972 a third major donor was added, Jack Ruby of Michigan City, and the name became Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute. The thriving camp still attracts over 1,000 children each summer and through a philanthropic trust by the Ruby family, Sinai Temple is proud to subsidize the OSRUI experience for the children of our members.
The Sinai Forum
In 1953, Sinai Temple members Sylvia and Milton Bankoff, along with Rabbi Karl Richter, created The Sinai Forum. They brought notable speakers to Michigan City from many walks of life: scientific, political, the entertainment world, and more. The residents of Michigan City embraced the culture this program provided and, as time went on, the Forum sought larger venues to accommodate the growing audiences. In 2006, Purdue University Northwest took over the program but left the name “Sinai Forum” as a tribute to the originators. Lectures are now held in the Purdue auditorium in Westville, Indiana during the fall and winter months.
The Lubeznik Center for the Arts
In 1978, the John G. Blank Art Center was established as Michigan City’s first center for art classes and exhibitions. In 2003, Jack and Shirley Lubeznik, local residents and Sinai Temple members, art enthusiasts, and philanthropists, generously donated the large beautiful building near the lakefront for the growing art center, which was then renamed as The Jack & Shirley Lubeznik Center for the Arts (LCA). The art center brings world class art to Michigan City, offers a plethora of outreach programs for schools and groups in the area, is open 364 days a year, and all programs are free.
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 of our congregation to be added to our rich history.