Rabbi Michael Schadick says that social action is the basis of the congregation.
“OOur claim to fame is that the Union for Reform Judaism told us that we were the fifth oldest Reform congregation in America. We are very proud of that,” said Rabbi Michael Schadick. “We are as welcoming as possible to everyone. We have kind of a big congregational tent, whether you’re Jewish and married to a non-Jew, whether you come from a more traditional background, whether you’re just someone exploring Judaism, we have a diverse population here .
Temple Emanuel, the Reformed congregation of Grand Rapids, was founded in 1857 and occupied two rented structures until 1881, when the congregation built its first home at the corner of Fountain and Ransom streets.
Organized by five German families who fled the restrictive laws of Europe, its members remained largely Germanic until the 1890s, when Jews from Eastern Europe began to settle in the area of Great Rapids.
In 1952, the current Temple building was erected, designed by Californian architect Eric Mendelsohn. The 1,000 square foot mural in the sanctuary is the creation of painter Lucienne Bloch Dimitroff, daughter of American composer Ernest Bloch and protege of Diego Rivera.
In 1992, the Congregation launched Atid, which funded a major renovation of the sanctuary and public spaces. The second phase of Atid renovated and expanded the library and classrooms.
Schadick has served as the rabbi of Temple Emanuel since July 2000. Cantor David Fair joined in 2021. The rabbi emeritus is Rabbi Dr. Albert M. Lewis.
Schadick says social action is the foundation of the congregation, and he is proud of the work they do not just for the Jewish community, but for the community as a whole.
“We are involved in all kinds of activities. We have this amazing food bank that was started at Temple Emanuel when some of the first Soviet Jews started emigrating to America,” Schadick said. “Some of our members have decided that they will really come forward and collect food. We serve around 50 families each month who receive a week’s worth of food from us.
A congregation of about 300 families, Temple Emanuel, Schadick says, believes in doing the best it can to meet the needs of its diverse population.
“I think the future of Jewish life in America needs to include everyone who has a stake because that’s how we grow and learn and respond to change and the realities of life, how we learn from each other. and bring the experiences of others into our community, and that is how we broaden our understanding of the world and humanity and can do a better job of serving it,” he said.
The congregation typically offers one highlighted event per week with a strong emphasis on connection.
“Last Thursday night 25 teenagers attended a game night at one of the local colleges. On Friday evening, we gathered our community of young adults for a barbecue at someone’s house after the end of services. We have breakfast once a month to try to get people involved. We have opportunities for people to connect with each other the best we can,” Schadick said.
United Jewish School is a combined religious Sunday school serving Temple Emanuel and the conservative Grand Rapids congregation, Ahavas Israel. Cantor Fair is the school principal. In general, Temple Emanuel has a close relationship with Ahavas Israel.
“When we have the opportunity to be together, we like to organize events together,” Schadick said. “I think that’s true of the Grand Rapids Jewish community as a whole. We are a small Jewish community, so whether it’s with the Jewish Federation or other synagogues, we tend to be friendly with each other. We’re all in the same boat.”