The New Beginning
With the passing of Rabbi Schwab, Ohavay Zion was at a crossroads. The close-knit, interrelated families that formed the core of the Synagogue for the first fifty years were joined by a growing membership from all parts of the world and from all walks of life. In this background, the board made two far-reaching decisions; all members of the Synagogue would be integrated into all aspects of its religious activity, and we would look for a site on which to build a new facility. The first decision was a definite change of direction, and the first move from Orthodoxy since the founders instituted mixed seating nearly 75 years before. Rabbi Uriel Smith was hired in August of 1985. Rabbi Smith, through his sensitivity and careful planning, was the key factor in the successful transition to full religious participation for our members. Plans to build a new Synagogue had been made many times in the past 35 years. This time, under the leadership of Michael Ades and Steve Caller, it progressed beyond the planning stage. They made it seem deceptively simple. In truth, it was a result of the almost unanimous emotional support of the membership and an amazingly successful voluntary fund raising effort. Within two years of the decision to build, the Torahs were transferred from Maxwell Street to our new building on Edgewater Court. The procession, on May 10 of 1987, was a highlight of our recent history. A final Shacharis service was held in the old sanctuary, Sidney Gall, Charlie Rosenberg, Arthur Herman and Louis Ades removed the Torahs from the Ark. The Ner Tamid (Eternal Light) was turned off by Liz Levy. Accompanied by 75 singing, dancing congregants, the Torahs were carried to the new Ohavay Zion. Alan Stein, the Synagogue president, placed the first Torah in the new Ark. Susan and Jill Caller, Sheila Dekosky, Norman Grossman and Sue Ezrine brought the others to the Ark.
Barbara Cohen, our first Bat Mitzvah in the new sanctuary turned on the Ner Tamid. Mezzuzahs were placed on the doors, prayers recited, songs sung and Ohavay Zion began its second seventy-five years. Eric Slaton was hired as Rabbi in August, 1988. With a new Synagogue and a young, energetic Rabbi to lead us, we faced the future with joy and confidence.
Rabbi Sharon Cohen, who joined the Ohavay Zion Synagogue family in August 2000, was dedicated to helping all members of OZS find a comfortable place within the Synagogue family. Whether on the bima, teaching our youngsters, or working with adult education, Rabbi Cohen brought with her a warm spirit and sense of enthusiasm for Jewish learning and growth. She sought to provide a listening ear and a “warm hug” of support to those in need.
As a Conservative rabbi, Rabbi Cohen was dedicated to upholding the principles of Conservative Judaism-of conserving Tradition even as we creatively respond to the demands and innovations of the modern world.
In August of 2009, OZS welcomed Rabbi Moshe Smolkin. Bringing a warm, intimate approach to all elements of the bima, Rabbi Smolkin initiated Friday Tishes, with joyful singing and learning, Kids’ Shabbat, incorporating young children into the services, and Young OZS-ers’ Shabbat, a dinner and service for young adults. Under Rabbi Smolkin’s leadership, OZS continues to be a congregation rooted in history, but always reaching for the future.