By Alice Rosenberg
Speech Presented on October 27, 2004
Before the beginning
In 1956 urban settlers began moving into the Hoffman Estates housing development, which was being built by F&S Construction, the Hoffman family.
You need to understand what was out here then.
Roselle, Golf and Higgins Roads were two-lane. Hicks Rd. was Highway 53. The Northwest Tollway wasn't completed. There were no stores. No incorporated village in Schaumburg Township, just German farmers in the area.
Their center was at Roselle and Schaumburg Roads where you could probably find a couple of taverns, perhaps the Ace Hardware, a repair shop and, of course, St. Peter's Lutheran Church and School, which was where most of the adults and children attended.
The Jews came to the hinterlands from Chicago, the majority of them from the Orthodox West Side. Most were World War II veterans in their early 30s with young children and not much money.
Back then, you could buy a $15,000 houses for $400 down and a 4% GI loan.
Parcel A was east of Roselle Rd. between Golf and Higgins. On an open piece of land, houses were being built in a line. Twinbrook School was built at the same time.
The nearest synagogues were Conservative ones in Elgin and Des Plaines. Some of the families took their children to the Conservative Synagogue in Elgin. They weren't entirely comfortable there and it was a schlep (long drive).
Earliest days at Twinbrook Hebrew Center
So during the winter of 1956-57, 13 families met and decided to hire a teacher and start their own Sunday school. On March 10, 1957, 23 students began their Jewish education with instruction by a Yeshiva student at the Twinbrook Hebrew Center.
This has traditionally been considered the date of origin of Beth Tikvah Congregation. We know that at least two Friday night services were held that spring.
By the fall of 1957, the Cohens had been hired to run the school. Friday night services were held in a classroom at Twinbrook School. But there was no all-purpose room yet and they couldn't have High Holiday Services in the school during the week.
The barn of the old Hammerstein farm was still standing. The Hoffman Estates Homeowners Association had strung lights upstairs, so chairs were moved in, an ark was made out of an orange crate, a Torah was borrowed and High Holidays Services were conducted. They had a Yom Kippur dance there that was attended by 30 couples. So, the numbers had already grown considerably.
Becoming Twinbrook Hebrew Congregation
Then they began seeking to affiliate. The Orthodox wouldn't talk to them. The Conservatives said they had to have a house for the rabbi within walking distance of the synagogue. Since that was not possible, they turned to the Reform Movement.
You have to understand that at that time, the Reform movement didn't teach Hebrew, didn't permit a chupah (covering) for weddings, didn't wear tallit (prayer shawls) or yarmulkes (head coverings) and took most of the Hebrew out of the service. For those raised in the Orthodox and Conservative milieu, being Reform was as bad as being a "goy" (non-Jew).
They went to Rabbi Richard Hirsch, who was director of the Reform Movement at that time and he told them: "You can do whatever you want. You can wear tallit, you can teach Hebrew, you can wear head coverings.
So by April 1958 they were formally welcomed into the UAHC as Twinbrook Hebrew Congregation.
Sisterhood had begun in November 1957 and has always been a backbone of the congregation. Men's Club was formed soon after and, though it has had its ups and downs, it is still around.
Becoming Beth Tikvah Congregation
A Hebrew name was acquired about October of '58 when they chose Beth Israel. After Dick Hirsch pointed out that there was already a Beth Israel in Chicago, we became Beth Tikvah, House of Hope, because they hoped it would last.
For the 1958 year, the Reform Movement gave us a grant of $500 to help pay for a student rabbi to conduct High Holiday services at the Barn and twice a month Friday services at Twinbrook.
In 1959, Rabbi Hirsch performed the same services. High Holidays were conducted at about the only place available to us, which was the Jockey Club Chapel at the Arlington Park Race Track. Not the most comfortable place to be!
After being here only six months, in January I 1960, my husband Elliott Rosenberg was named head of a rather large Pulpit Committee. This was a brand new experience for all of us; and everyone wanted to take part.
The Rabbinical Placement Service sent us four just-graduating rabbis. None of them wanted to take on a congregation with no building, no money and lots of children.
After a desperate call from Elliott, Dick Hirsch went down the list of rabbis seeking new pulpits and found the name of Hillel Gamoran.
Hillel Gamoran meets Beth Tikvah
Dick knew Hillel and knew his background. His father had been Director of Education for the UAHC for 40 years and his mother had written Jewish textbooks. Dick convinced Hillel to make a stop here on his way back from a California interview.
Hillel Gamoran was comfortably situated in a suburban synagogue in Morristown, New Jersey. But he wanted to teach Jewish children and he had some very definite ideas on the subject. He wanted:
- A three-day a week school with a comprehensive Hebrew program,
- Grades nursery through senior high and
- Paid teachers who would continue studying while teaching in order to become certified religious schoolteachers.
Out here on the prairie he found young Jewish couples that had the children and were willing to pay for the education, no matter how difficult it was.
Hillel was not at all what we expected. He was tall, blond, beardless and looked 20 years old, although he was 31. And the first time we answered the phone and heard, "Hello, this is Hillel," we were floored. Who ever heard of calling a rabbi by his first name?
The Rabbis of Beth Tikvah
We have to thank Dick Hirsch for making us a "good marriage” because it lasted 34 years until Hillel retired in 1994 at the age of 65.
Then Rabbi Doug Kohn and his wife, Reva, came to us for seven years, a young man with many ideas.
Rabbi Max Weiss led our spiritual growth for 7 years. His youth, enthusiasm and his lovely wife, Leslie, brought us many new programs and young couples.
Rabbi Mark Covitz and his wife Stacy joined us for 2 years before he was tempted away to the camp life.
And now we are blessed to welcome Rabbi Taron Tachman to Beth Tivkvah, and we look forward to his leadership and friendship here.
Our path to Hillcrest Blvd
In 1962 we were all over the map with services at Twinbrook School (and for a time at Blackhawk School) in Hoffman Estates and religious school classes at Rupley and Ridge Schools in Elk Grove Village (and for a short time at Palatine High School).
We had an office in an apartment over a store in Arlington Heights. We held High Holiday services at Arlington Park racetrack. We had our first dinner at Old Orchard Country Club in Mt. Prospect and our first large fundraiser at the Salk School in Rolling Meadows.
Making a circle of our members, they came from Hoffman Estates, Schaumburg, south to Bloomingdale and Glen Ellyn, east to Wooddale, back north to Elk Grove Village, Rolling Meadows, Mt. Prospect and Wheeling, and west again to Palatine (there wasn't any Buffalo Grove), and as far north as Carpentersville, with a few other towns in between.
So, it was time to build.
Our kickoff dinner for pledges was held in August 1962. By February 1963, 141 families had pledged $109,000 so the site was acquired and building plans proceeded.
Jack Hoffman offered us this 3+ acres of land for $10,000. Since we didn't have the money, he took a five-year note and gave us clear title to the land so we could get a building loan.
We broke ground May 5, 1963 and occupied the building for High Holiday Services and religious school. The price was $135,600 furnished. How we furnished it is another story, I don't have time for.
Expanding the building
By 1970 we had 205 families with 365 children in school and we had to go to split shifts. So the decision was made to enlarge the building.
Consequently, there was a lot of controversy about the addition because of a slight recession, so ground breaking didn't take place until April 1972. Problems with the builder prolonged the process and the new space was occupied piecemeal over the winter of 1972-73 and until spring.
But in spite of the problems, we got a lot for the $150,000 it cost us. The building was just about doubled in size with:
- a larger sanctuary,
- twice as many classrooms,
- larger office and rabbi's study
- a BIG kitchen and storage room for Sisterhood,
- another set of bathrooms,
- and a Chaveyron (not the one you see now, a smaller space).
The Future Is Now
In 1994 we again added to the building in a project called "The Future Is Now." It cost five times the original structure and almost five times the first addition.
The actual added space was:
- a larger chavyron,
- a rear entrance with a cloakroom and
- one classroom to replace the one up in front that was divided into a Sisterhood Gift Shop and Cantor's office.
The rest of it was maintenance and "fine tuning."
- The curved wall, cloakroom and Sisterhood display case were removed in front to make a larger entrance.
- In the sanctuary, a new larger bimah and ark were built, the sanctuary was carpeted and retiled, and new lighting was installed.
- Asbestos had to be removed.
- Bathrooms in both halls were remodeled to comply with the disability act.
- The building was re-roofed.
Donations improve our facility
The stained glass in the Ark and upper windows were gifts of the Krupp family. The Damlich family donated the new lecterns in memory of their mother, Ruth Damlich. Our original Ner Tamid was a hanging lamp. The one here was a gift from Sisterhood for our 2Sth Anniversary.
Our first bimah chairs were freebies from Northwestern University. These were bought in 1981. We started with the folding chairs we brought from Twinbrook School, so what you sit on now is our third set of chairs.
A lot of activity has taken place in this community in the 47½ years Beth Tikvah has been in existence. In 2½ years we will be observing our 50th Anniversary .A committee is already making plans for an exciting year in 2007. I hope to see all of you here to celebrate it with us.