Our History

During the 1950s in the Glen Cove metropolitan area, if you wanted to affiliate with a synagogue, you had two choices: Congregation Tifereth Israel (an orthodox-conservative temple) or Temple Sinai in Roslyn (the nearest Reform temple), approximately 10 miles away. About 30 of the 40 Glen Cove area families who were members of Temple Sinai gathered in the home of Paul Ressler on December 5, 1955 and began planning a new Reform congregation.

Our congregation held its first Shabbat service on February 10, 1956, in facilities offered by Friends Academy on Duck Pond Road, in the school auditorium. About 100 persons attended that memorable Friday evening service featuring Mildred Feingold on piano and Rabbi Davis and Cantor Robert Spiro officiating. Shortly after, the UAHC temporarily assigned former army chaplain Milton Schlager as our congregation’s first permanent Rabbi. In fact, he stayed until illness forced his departure in 1959.

On March 8, 1956 Kal Macklin, was elected as the first president of the congregation and Ressler was elected as the first vice president. At different times our fledgling congregation was offered the facilities of the Carpenter Methodist Church , the Masonic Temple (which housed our mobile ark), the Neighborhood House, and the Friends Academy. In searching for a permanent home, our congregation briefly considered the Reynolds property. But the price tag of $275,000 put it out of reach. In the end, we bought for $55,000 a 4.5-acre estate on Crescent Beach Road , complete with a half-century old home owned by an accountant named Herrick. That white pillared building often was referred to as our “castle in the woods.”

On Sunday, May 19, 1957 the congregation, now 120 families strong, held services consecrating the Crescent Beach Road building as the North Country Reform Temple . In the next year, work was performed to convert the home to a synagogue: the porch was enclosed and combined with three front rooms to form the sanctuary.

In 1959, Rabbi Schlager resigned his position for health reasons, and Rabbi Alton Winters was selected to replace him. During Rabbi Winters’ 12-year tenure, NCRT underwent a number of changes. Rabbi Winters conducted services which reflected his classic Reform Judaism training. He was an excellent speaker, appreciated for the intellectual content of his sermons. He established advanced study groups based upon the particular interests of members of the congregation. Confirmation classes were formed and our students were encouraged to continue their religious studies. Although our membership fluctuated, the number of families remained consistent with a core group of reliable and hardworking congregants. In 1971, Rabbi Winters felt the need to move on and, with the blessing of our congregation, left Glen Cove for Florida .

Rabbi Morton Kaplan and his family joined our congregation in September 1972. Rabbi Kaplan continued the traditional Reform Judaism practices established during Rabbi Winters’ tenure. He was very interested in the musical aspects of the service, and along with Cantor Harold Firestone, encouraged the congregation and its children to participate in newer adaptations of traditional songs. Rabbi Kaplan was well-liked by the congregation for his interest and compassion not only to our members, but to their extended families. However, in early 1974, the Kaplans moved out of New York .

Rabbi Laurence Kotok was NCRT’s fourth rabbi, arriving in 1974. Over the course of his nearly 25-year tenure, he began introducing elements of traditional Judaic practice and rituals. He worked with both Cantor Firestone, and his successor, Cantor Gail Hirschenfang, adding more Hebrew to the liturgy and music of the service.

In 1978 NCRT elected its first woman president, Susan Cort. That same year, the sanctuary was enlarged. In 1982, our synagogues kitchen was renovated as part of a three-year renovation project, and named in memory of Sylvia Svonkin, a longtime member and former Sisterhood president. But shortly thereafter, a maintenance accident set fire to the synagogue during the early morning hours of February 17, 1982. The blaze raced through the building and before it was extinguished, the synagogue was totally destroyed. Still reeling from the devastation, dozens of congregants crowded the home of Temple president Harold Berkowitz, and along with Rabbi Kotok, we made plans to rebuild and to keep our congregation intact.

The outpouring of aid from our community enabled all Temple activities to continue over the two years it took to construct the new building. Congregation Tifereth Israel , the nearby Conservative synagogue, offered the use of its lower level sanctuary for services and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. The religious school was housed at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Highland Road . High Holiday services were held at New York Institute of Technology, and the following year at C. W. Post College , both in Greenvale. We continued our Scholar-in-Residence weekends at Sea Cliff Methodist Church, and Passover Seders at Trinity Episcopal Church in Roslyn. During this period, the NCRT office operated from a trailer, located in the parking lot of our gutted building. In the meantime, a fundraising effort was launched and money began pouring in from other congregations, civic groups, foundations and individuals, both Jewish and Christian. An architect and contractor were hired and the offices were moved from the parking lot to the Village Square in downtown Glen Cove .

Groundbreaking ceremonies were held on August 21, 1983 and on February 10, 1985 our new synagogue building was dedicated during a most memorable ceremony. Rabbi Kotok, president Joseph Saxl, immediate past president Wally Green and other Temple officers lead a procession of congregants and their families through the snow-covered streets of Glen Cove to our new home. The procession walked past St. Paul’s Church, where it picked up the children of our religious school who had been attending classes there, and moved on to Congregation Tifereth Israel, where we reclaimed our Torah scrolls and continued on to the new building. Five days later, the first Shabbat service was held in the new sanctuary, and our building was formally dedicated in May. At that time, we added Ner Tamid (“Eternal Light”) as our Hebrew name, and the congregation was then to be known as North Country Reform Temple-Ner Tamid . Rabbi Kotok continued as our spiritual leader until 1996, when he accepted a position with a synagogue in Rochester, New York.

In the years since our beginning, the men and women of our congregation have worked together setting goals, sharing responsibilities, and attending services side by side. We have had a very active Sisterhood and Men’s Club. We have had a number of female Temple presidents and several female cantors. And in September 1996, we welcomed Rabbi Janet Liss to lead our congregation. She begins a new era in the twentieth century of Reform Judaism.

Acknowledgments from the NCRT Temple History Committee and Many thanks to those who contributed to this project.

Our founding members (those who signed the contract that established North Country Reform Temple ) were:

Lester Barth

Kalman Macklin

Herman Meltzer

Paul Ressler

Al Silver

Bernard Steinberg

Leon Stier

Charter members: includes the seven above founding members, and:

Robert and Dorothy Flicker Asch

George and Debbie Brown

Arthur and Rhoda Finer

Monroe Fink

Jerry and Bernice Levy

Charles and Rae Litchman

Jack and Norma Tayne

Sid and Adele Trause

Joe and Harriet Unger

Ray and Selmajean Zurer



North Country Reform Temple Presidents :

(All terms begin June 1, and are for two years unless * is shown)

1956 Kal Macklin

1958 Lester Barth

1959 Herman Meltzer*

1960 Louis Segall

1962 Sidney Rothstein

1964 Jack Tayne

1966 Erwin Schaeffer

1968 Bert Freiwirth

1970 Arthur Finer

1972 Joseph Unger

1974 Bernard Sloane

1976 Cal Greenbaum

1978 Sue Cort

1980 Harold Berkowitz

1982 Wally Green

1984 Joseph Saxl

1986 Joel Siskind

1988 Susan Bruckman

1990 Norman Russakoff

1992 Lois Molin

1994 Donald Brown

1996 John Schwartzman

1998 Steve Frome

2000 Michael Kotkin

2002 Skip LeBlang

2004 Mary George

2006 Lee Launer

2008 Paula Frome

2010 Kathy Nadel

2012 Peggy FitzGerald

North Country Reform Temple Sisterhood Presidents:

(The term of office is from June 1st to June 1st of the following year.)

1956-57 Florence Cohen

1957-59 Edith Goldberg

1959-60 Shirley Silver

1960-62 Charlotte Abelson

1962-63 Sylvia Svonkin

1963-65 Harriet Steinberg

1965-67 Eve Krolick

1967-69 Sue Cort

1969-70 Natalie Kushell

1970-72 Barbara Richer

1972-74 Edith Grant

1974-76 Fran Belasco

1976-77 Sylvia Svonkin

1977-78 Charlotte Abelson

1978-80 Emily Gibbs

1980-82 Michelle Siskind

1982-84 Lenore Sotsky

1984-86 Rita Linchitz

1986-88 Leta Medina/Paula Frome

1988-90 Amy Tabor

1990-92 Susan Bloomfield

1992-93 Amy Tabor

1993-96 Lori Kotkin

2010-11 Ilana Schenk

2011-13 Alissa Woska