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The congregation of Temple Emanuel became a reality on July 22, 1953, when a group of Great Neck residents, convinced that only a liberal view of the Jewish faith would serve them and their children, set out to create the kind of institution that would best concretize their values. This brand of Judaism would maintain reverence for, but never bondage to, the past. Their idea spread throughout the community, and hundreds joined the original 22 members. They raised a considerable amount of wherewithal to build a sanctuary on Hicks Lane; the six-and-a-half acre property had been donated by one of the founding families. The construction was concluded in 1958 and the new temple building was dedicated on Sunday, the 19th of April, 1959.


As the congregation grew, the rabbis and lay leadership provided for all of the needs of the members: a nursery school, religious school, sisterhood and brotherhood organizations, adult education programs, and a social action committee that dealt with the issues of the day.


A famous sculptor in metal works, Ludwig Wolpert, among the world’s foremost craftsmen in bronze, was commissioned to design the metal sancta for the sanctuary. Wolpert’s works were exhibited at the Jewish Museum, and his beautiful symbols still adorn the Emanuel hall of worship and synagogue house.


The congregation brought notables to address the community on vital issues. They called it the “Image of Man” series, and the performing arts were well represented too: violinist Yitzhak Perlman; actors Joseph Buloff and Herschel Bernardi; as well as the Tuskegee Institute Choir and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  Political figures such as Justice Abe Fortas, Ambassador Abba Eban, Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Governor George Romney, Lieutenant Governor Mary Anne Krupsak, Senators Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Howard Baker, Barry Goldwater, John Tower, Lloyd Bentsen, Senator Adlai Stevenson Jr. and Vice President Hubert Humphrey offered lectures. Additional prominent figures appearing in the earlier years were: scientist Rene Dubos, news commentator David Schoenbrun, historian and Brandeis president Dr. Abraham Leon Sachar, labor leader Sol Chick Chaikin, economist Herbert Stein, Judge Jack B. Weinstein, Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, Floyd McKissick of SCLC, senior political officer at the UN Secretariat Dr. Yassin El-Ayouty, famous stage and screen personality Howard DaSilva, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, and the renowned author Isaac Bashevis Singer. 

Subsequent "Image of Man" lectures were presented by David Grossman, Henry Kissinger, Madame Jehan Sadat, Yitzhak and Leah Rabin, Jeane Kirkpatrick, Amos Oz, and Sir Martin Gilbert.

Rabbi Walter Plaut served the synagogue for ten years, almost from its inception. It was under Rabbi Plaut that the synagogue raised funds enabling the St. Paul A.M.E Zion Church to complete its new house of worship on Steamboat Road in Great Neck. When Rabbi Plaut passed, he was succeeded by Rabbi Avraham Soltes, who invited the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to the synagogue; he also welcomed the Jewish students at West Point to attend Holy Day services at the synagogue. He served for approximately five years and then retired from the active rabbinate.

In 1968, Dr. Robert S. Widom was asked to serve the congregation as its rabbi. Under Rabbi Widom’s leadership, the "Image of Man" series was expanded; the synagogue house was renovated, enlarging the facilities as well as the library, named for Charles Louis and Fannie Goldman. The library now faced the Lieberman Garden for Meditation, and some years later the garden was turned into a beautifully landscaped courtyard, providing a site for small weddings as well as informal social gatherings. Overlooking the courtyard is a magnificent menorah, sculpted in bronze by David Ascalon. A unique Wall of Remembrance, designed in oak, and also crafted by Ascalon, was donated by the Lillian and Nathan Ackerman family.

Near the edge of the property is the outdoor "Chapel in the Woods," which was donated by Alice and Wallace Rosenwach and family.

In 1994, Paul Wood, among the leading artists on Long Island, was commissioned with the task of creating six stained glass windows, an eternal light and an ark to house the Torahs. These were designed by him—lovingly and creatively, in glass, wood, bronze and stone—and became a spiritually uplifting reality. They were dedicated on May 5, 1996.  Soon after, the sanctuary was named for Joan and honorary trustee Sandy Weill, acquiring the formal title, The Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall of Worship.

The newest addition is a second smaller hall of worship called the Chapel in the Sky, named for Elaine and Maynard Koenigsberg. It is located on the fifth floor of the Mildred and Leonard C. Lane Center for Learning.

Dr. Steven Adlow
Morton Alpert
Howard Birnbach
Robert Edelman
Stephen Epstein
Jeri Glaser
Susan Goldfarb
Dr. Michael Goldstein
Paula Held*
Susan Helsinger
Howard Iselin
Lynn Keller
Michael Keller
Stephen Levine
Dr. Richard Libman
Dr. Leslie Popoff
Francie Rosenstein
Philip Schlesinger
Steven Schwartz
Adam Turek
William Vance
Ellen Widawsky

Robert Zimmerman


Sol C. Chaikin*
Walter Gross*
Dr. Jules Joskow*
Maynard Koenigsberg*
Leonard C. Lane*
Stanley Lipman*
Robert Postal*
Jack Rivers*
Lawrence Sarf
Hon. Abe Seldin*
Dr. Sidney I. Silverman*
Sheldon K. Soladar*
Judge Arthur D. Spatt*
Sol Sutter*
Sanford I. Weill
Judge Jack B. Weinstein*
Hon. Lester L. Wolff*
Honorary Trustees


Julius Fishkind*
Hon. Matthew Blei*

Emanuel Whitman*

Herbert J. Waxman*

Bernard A. Helfat*

George Kern*

Burton Bernard*
Dr. Jack Pearl*

Alvin L. Newman*

Austin D. Graham*

Hon. Solomon H. Friend*

Robert P. Miller*

Mortimer F. Zimmerman*

Marvin Zale*

Louis I. Teicher*

Hon. Harold H. Wolgel*
Herbert W. Riemer*

Warner J. Heuman*

Ruth Dankner*

Jay Kushner*

Edward Streim*
Dr. Harry N. Heinemann*
Hon. John L. Kase*
Barbara Shapiro
H. Wayne Mirsky
Lloyd Goldfarb*
Sandor C. Schweiger*
Mandell Dalis*

Steven Boughner

Dr. H. David Lieberman
Richard Portney*

Alan Elkes
Past Presidents


* Deceased

rabbi's desk

a little bit of history

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