OUR EARLY YEARS 1945-1960
The history of Temple Sholom is directly linked to the history of its community. The organized Jewish community in Pompano Beach began in 1945. With a population of less than 4,500 the town was not incorporated until 1947 when Pompano would merge with its adjacent beach area to form, Pompano Beach, Florida. Agriculture was the major business activity in the area in 1945 and several of the market-related businesses were owned by Jews. After World War II, the area began to rapidly grow as servicemen who had been stationed in South Florida decided to permanently relocate here. Although there were Jews in Broward County, there was no conservative synagogue north of Dade County and Miami was a long drive since there were no expressways. The Jewish population was small and there was a need for religious education, life events, and a desire to hold social connections. Anti-Semitism was blatantly evident and memories of the Nazi atrocities were fresh in the collective memory of Pompano’s Jews.
The congregation name was originally spelled as Temple Shalom (the conventional spelling), but had to be changed to Temple Sholom (the alternative spelling) for another congregation in Florida had already incorporated using the name. The congregants initially met during these years at the Pompano Beach Chamber of Commerce Building on Atlantic Boulevard. A few years later high holiday services were held at the First Methodist Church, as were bi-weekly Friday night Shabbos services. Other meeting locations included Pompano Beach High School, the Pompano Beach Garden Center, and an Italian restaurant (for Passover Seders). The Sunday school was held at Pompano Elementary School.
PERMANENT HOME 1961-1990
In 1960, Pompano Beach grew and more Jews moved into the area. Membership was comprised of a mix of young families and retirees. The social calendar and religious school were full and the Temple flourished. Plans were formulated by the membership committee to contact all the new Jewish families living in the area in efforts to grow the congregation.
On February 7, 1960, groundbreaking was held at the present site, 132 SE 11th Avenue, to build its first permanent home. The design was in the shape of a Star of David. Using sliding accordion doors, the points of the star could be separated from the central sanctuary/ auditorium and served as classrooms. The doors would open for services and folding chairs placed in the points of the star had full sight and sound access to the activities on the bima. The project was completed within seven months and by fall 1960, Temple Sholom was celebrating the high holidays in its first permanent home. Rabbi Aaron Shapiro from New Hampshire conducted the services with 100 members. The education building was added in 1969.
Louis Wolff of Fort Lauderdale was the architect while member Richard Koff was in charge of the project. Abe Cor and Jerry Soowal provided construction and landscaping support. The cost for the 400-seat facility was approximately $100,000 and a mortgage was held by Farmer’s Bank of Pompano.
Until the mid-1960s, Temple Sholom had hired two rabbis, each of which had brief tenures. In the interim religious services were led by members. In 1967, the Temple hired a full time rabbi, Morris Skop. He had served in Dade County for many years prior and integrated himself with a bustling growth of Temple Sholom. He served on the pulpit for 13 years and presided during a time of unprecedented expansion. The congregation continued to grow in the early 1970s. There was a full schedule of bar mitzvah, social events, education programs, and religious services. As newer communities grew in western Broward County, membership declined. The trend resulted in the Temple becoming a “senior” congregation during the 1980s and early part of the 90’s. The religious school no longer operated. In 1975 the existing sanctuary was opened with its beautiful stained glass windows and redesigned bimah. The Ark was designed by Leonard and Bernice Schorr along with Eli Skop. Rabbi Skop was quoted as saying “The sculpture of the symbolic bush at the base, the Hebrew letters on the doors, and the External light...in bronze, copper and steel… combines to create a warm and personal reflective feeling.”
FUTURE 1991 - PRESENT
In 1990 the final expansion to the building was completed with the addition of a social hall, chapel, offices and relocated lobby. In 1994, Rabbi Ivan Wachmann took over the spiritual leadership. Originally from Dublin, he moved to America and became Cantor, Associate Rabbi, and the Senior Rabbi of Temple Sholom. The community began to revitalize itself and more Jewish families started moving back to East side of Broward County. During Wachmann’s reign, the congregation began to become more progressive, where men and women shared the same pew and enjoy the same privileges. He retired in 2008 and passed away in March 2013.
In 2009, David Hartley Mark joined as the congregation's new rabbi. Mark embraced the temple aspects of mixing old tradition with new innovation. Educational program continues to be open to the community at large, speaking events, and prayer services occur regularly with our gifted Cantor Hesh Mayersdorf as he leads us in prayer. Kiddush refreshments follow every services, with ample time to sit, schmooze, and make new friends with the most haimish (relaxed, homey) congregation in town. No two Jews enjoy doing exactly the same thing, and so we vary our cultural offerings. And of course, we have our Hebrew School -- just one day a week, on Sundays from 9 am to noon. It incorporates Hebrew Language, culture, holidays, crafts and the fun of being with other Jewish kids.
From generation to generation (L’Dor VaDor), Temple Sholom has continued to grow and prosper. Our rich Jewish history is just a small fraction of Temple Sholom. You can't begin to appreciate it until you visit us and let the congregation make you feel welcome. Come soon and resolve to become a vital part of the friendliest congregation in South Florida. We are waiting to meet you!