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Our Story - Past and Present

Congregation Israel of Springfield (CIS) has much to celebrate: its founding, in 1882 in Newark; its renewal in Springfield in 1971; the arrival of Rabbi Chaim and Lea Marcus, our beloved rabbi and rebbetzin in 2002; and our Shul community’s Annual Gala Benefit Dinners.
 
In the 20 years that Rav Chaim and Lea have been with us, our Shul has grown and become an even more vibrant, sought after congregation with multiple opportunities for Torah learning, chesed, socialization and welcoming new people. The warmth and caring that were hallmarks of our predecessor Shuls continue today as so many new families move into Springfield and become part of the CIS family.
 
Our Shul first made its mark as Congregation Shomrei Shabbos in 1882. From the very beginning, our members were known both for their dedication to Torah as well as their friendliness and sense of community.
 
As the Jewish population of Newark grew and evolved, so too did the Shul, which participated in several mergers and moved numerous times.
 
During the late 1960’s a small group led by Dr. Leonard and Sandi Strulowitz identified the need for an Orthodox synagogue in their hometown of Springfield, while recognizing that the Newark Jewish community was shrinking and Shuls were closing their doors.
 
Len met with several Newark families, encouraging them to move to Springfield, and many meetings were held in the Strulowitz home along with other Springfield families.
 
One meeting in particular was attended by Rabbi Israel E. Turner, of blessed memory, Rabbi of Congregation Knesset Israel of Newark, and the concept of a Springfield Shul soon became a reality.
 
In September 1971, the Strulowitz house on 25 Avon Road became the first home of our new Shul. It was called the Young Israel of Springfield (YIS) and services were held there for close to a year. Rabbi Turner accepted the Strulowitz offer to be guest rabbi, with services having ceased at Congregation Knesset Israel of Newark. The Newark members were eager to visit the new Springfield Shul, and they returned with glowing reports.
Since a merger could not be effected immediately, Rabbi Turner was given permission to lead High Holiday services for both Congregation Knesset Israel of Newark and YIS, at Gaudineer Junior High School. Even the constant ringing of the school bells could not diminish the powerful effect of his Divrei Torah on every member of our new congregation.
 
Within months, YIS purchased the property at 339 Mountain Avenue which became our congregation’s permanent home, while in Newark the elders finalized the sale of their beloved Shul building to the State of New Jersey. In 1973, YIS dissolved and a new Shul was born: Congregation Israel of Springfield with Rabbi Israel E. Turner as its first rabbi.
 
In an Interview with the Jewish News, when Rabbi Turner was asked what “Modern Orthodox” means. He responded: “Modern Orthodoxy fills an urgent contemporary need for imagination and ingenuity in approaches and programs, within the bounds of Halacha, for awakening the immortal spark of Judaism that smolders in the hearts and souls of those who seem most removed from Jewish living.” He served as the esteemed rabbi and rabbi emeritus from 1973 until his passing in 1996.
 
Rabbi Alan J. Yuter was hired as the Shul's second rabbi and led the congregation from 1987 until 2002. Rabbi Yuter became a force for intellectual curiosity, challenging us to enhance our knowledge as we grew a deeper understanding of our traditions.
 
We are proud to recall the dedication and leadership of our past rabbis, and join together with Rav Chaim and Lea in celebrating the present and future of our Shul.
 
Fri, August 12 2022 15 Av 5782