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First Jewish Temple in Fort Lauderdale

Wednesday, December 25, 1985


Edition: NEWS/SUN-SENTINEL Section: WEST Page: 6
Byline: By Kelly Leon, Staff Writer

In a meeting hall in the Second Presbyterian Church on North Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale`s first Jewish temple is laying its roots.
About 85 percent of the members in the 135-family congregation did not belong to a temple before Bat Yam was formed last April, according to Steve Lewin, the temple`s president. ``I didn`t belong before, and I`ve lived here for five years,`` Lewin said. ``Unfortunately, that`s true for most of the congregation.``It wasn`t a lack of devotion to his faith that has kept Lewin from joining a temple. It was lack of a temple.``You want to belong in your community,`` he said.
Of 16 synagogues listed in the Fort Lauderdale Yellow Pages, there are four in Plantation, four in Sunrise, three in Lauderdale Lakes, two in Lauderhill, two in Miami Beach and one in Miami.  None are in Fort Lauderdale. In a practice that Lewin said is not uncommon, a Christian church has opened its doors and provided the congregation with a meeting place.
Congregation Bat Yam began when Nancie and Mark Severs moved here from Hollywood last spring. The Severs wanted to send their two children to Jewish Sunday school but couldn`t find a temple within the city limits. ``We got the names of a couple of Jewish families with children and found that parents had no place to send them for religious instruction, Nancie Severs said.
The initial meeting attracted about 30 parents who since have rented space at the Montessori Learning Center, 1700 N. Andrews Ave., and about 66 children are attending Sunday school there each week, she said. The consensus at the meeting, however, was that a pre-school was a good first step, but a synagogue also was needed in east Fort Lauderdale.
The Rev. Jerry Flanagan, pastor of Second Presbyterian Church, said several young Jewish families have children attending the church`s nursery school and their parents came to him and asked if they could hold services in the church. Flanagan said he readily agreed. ``It`s a significant witness to our brotherhood and our common commitment.``
The congregation pays about $110 each week, the cost of opening, operating and cleaning up the room.``Second Presbyterian Church has been absolutely fantastic,`` Lewin said. ``Everytime I leave there I have tears in my eyes.````Before (Bat Yam) people went to temples out west or didn`t go at all,`` said, Nancie Severs
Reprinted with permission from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel June 7, 2013
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