In early 1991, five Jewish families with a common dream came together to establish a new congregation in Sarasota. That March, over 180 people attended the new congregation’s first function, a community Seder. The following month, with a Sefer Torah graciously on loan from Temple Beth Sholom, 55 families attended Temple Sinai’s “Service of Beginning” at the Jewish Community Center. Membership quickly grew and the temple hired Rabbi Aaron Koplin to serve as its first rabbi.
Without a permanent home, the growing congregation held services at various locations around town. A dedicated group, nicknamed the “Sinai Shleppers,” transported an ark, Torah and prayer books each week from place to place. By 1992, with over 300 families, Temple Sinai acquired a former church complex on Kenilworth Street and that became the temple’s first permanent home.
In December of 1993, Temple Sinai welcomed our second Rabbi, Geoffrey Huntting, and his family to Sarasota and in 1995 we officially joined the Reform movement. The congregation continued to grow and expand its programming. In September of 2005 we moved into our current home on South Lockwood Ridge Road.
The year 2006 was particularly exciting as we hired our first cantor, Chazzan Cliff Abramson, and opened our early childhood school, The Gan at Temple Sinai. In our new space we were able to develop our programming even further, including varied adult learning opportunities, an annual film series, and music concerts. Our youth group strengthened and we celebrated several “firsts”: hosting our first NFTY regional youth event and having our youth group president elected to be the NFTY regional president. At the other end of the age range, The Gan filled to capacity, requiring rezoning to meet the growing interest in its well-regarded program. In 2010, we instituted our monthly Rhythm & Jews Shabbat Service that has become a community favorite.
We celebrated our 25th anniversary year with a series of concerts that culminated in a weekend honoring Rabbi Huntting upon his retirementand becoming Rabbi Emeritus. To have had his consistent guidance for 23 years was truly a blessing and we look forward to the next chapter in the life of our community with Rabbi Michael Churgel and his family.