The Times
  • Temple Beth Joseph marks 75th anniversary

  • Temple Beth Joseph, at 327 N. Prospect St., Herkimer, is celebrating its 75th anniversary.

    The celebration will include the customary Sabbath services today at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 9 a.m.

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  • Temple Beth Joseph, at 327 N. Prospect St., Herkimer, is celebrating its 75th anniversary.
    The celebration will include the customary Sabbath services today at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 9 a.m.
    On Friday night, in place of a sermon, two members of the congregation will share what being members of Temple Beth Joseph has meant to them. Saturday evening there will be a dinner at 6:30 p.m. Steven Blance, comic and writer for television, will be the speaker.
    Blance also served as speaker for Temple Beth Joseph’s 60th anniversary celebration, according to Kalman Socolof, board member and past president. He added, “When I called him, he said ‘Oh, is it time for the 75th anniversary already?’” Socolof said Blance, who wrote for the television show, “Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling,” in the mid-1980s, was a friend of his brother’s and served as best man at his brother’s wedding.
    Socolof noted Temple Beth Joseph has a small congregation of fewer than 70 members and is led by Rabbi Ronald B. Kopelman, who also serves as webmaster for the congregation’s website.
    “Everybody helps by contributing what they can,” said Socolof. He noted Temple Beth Joseph is the only synagogue between Utica and Gloversville and people come from a number of communities including Dolgeville, Salisbury and Utica. He added, “This will be a chance to get together and celebrate what’s been done in the past and look forward to what the future holds.”
    Socolof said he and his wife, who is also a board member, have been involved at Temple Beth Joseph since the early 1980s. “Both of our children were Bar Mitzvahed there.”
    “Our president Toby Maser, aside from being our president, is on the International United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism,” said Socolof. “She is on both the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the USCJ sisterhood’s board.” He added she is also serving as registrar for a Women’s League Convention in Las Vegas.
    “Herkimer is really not always on the world map,” said Socolof, “but in the world of Judaism, here’s somebody from this community who is in the upper echelons.”
    Temple Beth Joseph has a long history in Herkimer.
    While its organizational meeting occurred in 1937, the congregation can trace its roots here back even further, according to a brief history listed on the Temple’s website. It was 1915 when the few Jewish families in Herkimer formed the Hebrew Aid Society to promote social and religious activities for the community’s Jews. By 1927, they owned Torah scrolls and had purchased burial grounds from the Oak Hill Cemetery. All they lacked was a building to call home.
    During the 1930s, there was an increase in the Jewish population of the Herkimer area and soon it was decided to disband the society and form a Temple. This house of prayer was to be named in memory of the late Joseph Basloe. The organization of this new synagogue took place late in 1937 and the Temple’s charter was filed after the beginning of the new year.
    Page 2 of 2 - Services and meetings were at first held in the homes of the members, but eventually they acquired room in an office building on Main Street. Planning for a permanent home began in 1947 and by September of 1949, the Temple building was dedicated at the corner of Prospect and Church streets. Temple Beth Joseph has remained at this site ever since and still stands as the Herkimer area’s only synagogue.
    In 1957 the Ida Castle School Wing was added to serve the educational needs of the Jewish community and, soon after, the Rose Basloe Library was added.
    “The tasks to which our synagogue is dedicated: Prayer, education, camaraderie and devotion to God remain,” according to the statement on the Temple’s website, “and, as a congregation, we are proud of the role we have played and will continue to play in the unfolding of Jewish life here in the beautiful Mohawk River Valley.”