WEST PALM BEACH, FL. — The oldest synagogue in Palm Beach County, Temple Beth Israel, is being considered again to be designated as a historic place.
It found a forever home in 2012 by moving to Temple Beth El’s campus and located off N. Poinsettia Avenue. It is now Yeckes Family Chapel.
According to the city, a property; even once it’s deemed historic with the land underneath, it does need to have a new designation so that it carries with the new parcel.
“We celebrate our diverse history,” said Friederike Mittner, the West Palm Beach’s historic preservation planner. “Officially register it so that moving forward, if perhaps the tenants change in that location that will continue to protect that history for future generations because any modifications will be required to be approved by the historic preservation board.”
“We’re proud to be part of the history of Palm Beach,” said Rabbi Leonid Feldman, the spiritual leader at Temple Beth El.
Feldman said the old temple was built by a small group of Jewish pioneers who wanted a house of worship back in the 1920s.
“It was begun by 80 families. That is what we researched. There were 80 families that put together the money,” said Feldman.
After the first World War, the Byzantine Revival style was popular among structures. The dome over the portico at Temple Beth Israel references that.
“There are some Greek elements there. Original ceiling and original floor. It’s incredible,” said Feldman.
A sentiment that both the Temple Beth El and the city want future generations to experience.
“A hundred years from now, they’ll be able to cherish it,” said Mittner.
A first public hearing and reading took place this week and a second one is scheduled next month before the city commission makes a final vote.
On January 26, 2021, the Historic Preservation Board (7-0) recommended to designate Temple Beth Israel on the West Palm Beach Register of Historic Places.
According to the city of West Palm Beach, the founding members of Beth Israel were prominent businessmen and civic leaders in West Palm Beach.
Max Sirkin was instrumental in forming the temple and was selected to be its first president.
He had emigrated from Russia as a young man, settling first in Connecticut and then in Atlanta.
He relocated to West Palm Beach in 1896 and went into partnership with his father-in-law as proprietors of a men’s furnishing store.
Sirkin was active throughout the state of Florida in fraternal circles and was a Mason, Elk, and a member of the Shrine and International Order of Odd Fellows. He served as City Councilman and in other offices before his death in 1933.
Joseph Mendal served on the City’s Planning Commission and in 1923-24, was Mayor of West Palm Beach.
He was also active in welfare circles. In 1928, a United Jewish Welfare Board was formed at a meeting of Beth Israel and the Beth El congregations. Mendal was named president of the Board.
The following year he was elected president of City Welfare Federation.
The third member of the building committee, Julius Lax, was president and manager of the Palm Beach Plumbing and Supply Company.