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Read stories from our community about the many ways in which an updated education center will tangibly impact lives, as well as personal accounts from our community on why they’ve been inspired to give so generously to this project.


OUR STORIES
 

FAYE & ANDREW REITER:
Temple Israel members; parents to Sarah Falkoff and in-laws to Ron Falkoff; and grandparents to DECC alum and TI Religious School student, Noah, and his little sister and DECC student, Sonia

Faye and Andrew Reiter have been Temple Israel members for almost three decades. They chose TI because Faye’s mother, Helen Hirsch (z”l), and her sister and her husband, Anita (z”l) and Herschel Medalie (z”l), were active members here at the time. Since then, Faye and Andrew have found TI to be a warm and welcoming Jewish atmosphere that promotes lifelong Jewish learning. “We were looking for a temple that would be a good fit for our children for religious school. Also, our fellow congregants make services comfortable and enjoyable for us to feel more in touch with our own Jewish identity.”

The Reiters both believe in the importance of passing down their Jewish traditions and feel that the education their grandkids are receiving at Temple Israel has already instilled in them a strong Jewish identity, a love and respect of Judaism, a feeling of community, and a personal relationship with God. “That means everything to us! We attend as a family, we pray as a family, we celebrate holidays in our home and at the Temple as a family.”

“Our Jewish heritage demands that we become a people of teachers and learners. For without this campaign, our Judaism would not continue to grow and our community would stagnate.”

 

NOAH FALKOFF:
DECC alum, Temple Israel Religious School student, Simba (the Lion) in the last Purim Shpiel at TI, and big brother to Sonia

Noah Falkoff loves Religious School! His favorite things are cooking with Morah Diane Packman, nature with Moreh Michael Tzinberg, borrowing books from the little library, Jewish music, and being a part of the Purim Shpiel (this year Noah played the part of Simba from the Lion King!)

Religious School and Noah’s network of friends are also really important to him. “It helps me know how others celebrate holidays in their house. We are all Jewish and sometimes we do things differently in our families.”

Noah also has really fond memories attending DECC, and loves that his little sister Sonia is enjoying it. “I was excited because I could not wait for her to experience all of the fun that she was going to have there. She was going to meet new friends, have new, nice teachers, and learn all about Jewish holidays and what they mean to us Jews. She will even learn Hebrew and Spanish!”

Noah also wants others to consider making a contribution to the Reimagining Campaign. When asked why, he said, “I want people to fundraise this so parents don’t have to lift strollers up the stairs, and people with a disability can keep up with their classes. TI is the best Religious School I’ve ever been to!”

“I want people to fundraise this so parents don’t have to lift strollers up the stairs, and people with a disability can keep up with their classes.”

 

SARAH & RON FALKOFF:
Temple members, lay leaders, event and committee volunteers, and parents

We chose Deutsch Early Childhood Center for our children, Noah (7) and Sonia (almost 2), because the educators and staff know all the kids by name, love them and treat each as their own, and do whatever they can to meet the needs of every individual student. Since DECC is run as a school more so than a daycare, kids thrive here. By the time Noah graduated from Pre-K, he was educationally prepared for kindergarten, and Sonia, who is so happy in her “Tadpole” class, is growing by leaps and bounds every day. DECC is such a special place.

We have been fortunate to see our son, and now our daughter, take their first steps as wonderful, caring citizens within the community, both of whom carry a great sense of Jewish self-identity and pride. It’s incredible to see what they’ve learned at Temple Israel come to light when we attend Shabbat services. Sonia loves singing at Tot Shabbats, and you can visibly see Noah’s mind taking in Jewish insights and new understandings. We love to watch that spark grow as we as parents unwind and enjoy the comfort of Friday services after a long week.

As parents, the upgrades to the education center mean so much! The new ramp means that the school side will be accessible to everyone of any ability level and age and will even accommodate strollers. The new windows and doors and placement of the front office will enhance security, as well as provide more climate control and regulate temperatures on all floors. We know that the technology upgrades will help learners further their Jewish education and assist teachers in providing new and meaningful ways of implementing curriculum and instruction. As lay leaders and volunteers, we are passionate about the upgraded security that will help to keep our children, our members, our teachers, our staff, and our Rabbis as safe as possible. That enhanced security means we will have the most secure place to learn, worship, and make memories for generations to come.

Everyone who uses Temple Israel spaces will see and feel the benefits of an upgraded education center. Supporting this campaign is something we must do for our Temple community, for our school, and for all the generations that come after us.

 

JOELLE & MARK BIERNACKI:

Temple members, event and committee volunteers, and parents

We love the fact that our family is getting their Jewish education here at Temple Israel. It has given our children a great base and foundation on which they’ve built upon as they’ve grown and matured. For our teenagers, it gives them a safe place to go and just be teenagers. For adults, we love the fact that we can be part of a Jewish community and do things as a couple; we can attend religious gatherings together and educational opportunities like Torah study. The new education center will allow us to continue to grow as a family and make our community more vibrant and stronger for generations to come. 

We think that it’s important to support education at Temple Israel to ensure that our values are passed down. The Jewish community is only strong if it has a strong foundation, built brick by brick by congregants donating dollar by dollar. That is what ensures that we can share the Jewish faith with young people in the future.

 

OLIVIA BIERNACKI:
Temple Israel Religious School student, Bat Mitzvah, and Youth Group member

Through Religious School and Youth Group, I've learned so much about my background and how to appreciate it. Having that Jewish education is important to me because it gave me the strength and confidence I needed to share my thoughts about religious and political issues at my Bat Mitzvah. And, I love Temple Israel because they always connect me to Jewish culture through food.

When I heard about the Reimagining project to renew the school, I knew that the project would last and benefit generations after me, so I contributed my Bat Mitzvah money. I'm excited to see it further Jewish education for others. My favorite thing about Judaism is the idea of Tikkun Olam—repairing and renewing the world. We are repairing and renewing Temple Israel’s education center with an upgraded school that will provide a better opportunity for us to learn in and I'm excited to see it in action. Others should join me and donate to better that renewal.

 

KEN & MELISSA SUSMAN:
Temple members and parents

We knew before we had kids that we wanted them to have a Jewish identity and to be part of a Jewish community. We came to Temple Israel because we heard great things about the preschool, and after meeting with Leslie Wolf, we knew that our daughter Maddie would be safe, happy, and well taken care of here. This place is special to our family because of the people—the Rabbis, Leslie, the teachers… they make us feel like family. That’s why we send Maddie and why we’ll send her baby sister Cori.

The plans to upgrade TI’s education center are truly exciting. The new staircase and ramp mean that the entrance will be more easily accessible. This is going to be great for people who can't use stairs or find them difficult, but it's also great for parents with strollers or multiple children. I know from experience that it can be nerve wracking to carry a car seat and holding a toddler's hand while walking up the steps to get into the school

We’re also excited for the classroom upgrades that will help keep kids engaged, as well as the expanded learning opportunities that updated technology can provide. We would have loved to have an infant room at the preschool when Cori was born, and we’re excited that this room is included in the plans. There are going to be some happy babies there!

It’s important to us that our girls know who they are as individuals, and that they have a place where they belong as Jews. Temple Israel has helped us provide that for them, and as a family, we’re looking forward to the upgrades that this campaign will provide our children, and many children, as they get their Jewish education.

 

MADDIE SUSMAN:
DECC alumna, Temple Israel Religious School student, granddaughter, daughter, and big sister to baby Cori

Meet Maddie.
Maddie used to go to Deutsch Early Childhood Center (DECC), but she graduated forever ago! Well, 2018 to be exact. Here are a few of Maddie’s favorite things about DECC (in order of most favorite to almost most favorite):
The teachers
Friends
The muscle room
The Purple Lizard room
Art Puppets

Maddie has moved on to Temple Israel’s Religious School and she’s loving Mrs. Epstein’s class. Here are Maddie’s favorite things about Religious School:
“Cooking! I love cooking so much!”
“Coloring in Hebrew letters.”
“I love my teachers!”
“Music! And guess where we have music?.. In the muscle room. It is AWESOME!”

Maddie’s baby sister, Cori, will begin Deutsch Early Childhood Center in 2020, and Maddie is so excited for her, “because everything at DECC is so awesome and all the classrooms are so great and Miss Cindy's room is the best and I bet the teachers will make sure she's in Miss Cindy's room because Miss Cindy's room is so awesome! I love Miss Cindy!”

Maddie also has some very good advice for baby Cori. “Always to be nice to other people. Also, always be nice and hug your teacher when you get there. And always help new students get around and be a good friend!"


JANIE SPIRTAS:
Reimagining Campaign Co-Chair, Temple member, TI early educator, wife, and mother

Temple Israel holds a special place in my heart. I attended TI’s Religious School and became a Confirmand here. I went on my very first date with my husband to Friday night services (this is true!), and we were married by Rabbi Shook. My three children have had the honor of becoming B’nai Mitzvah with Rabbi Amy and Rabbi Michael. I would love nothing more than for this Temple and this school to play a special role in the lives of the ones I love now and of course for our future nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and all of our generations to come!

As an educator in my 11th year of teaching preschool at TI, I want our students to not only get their early education with us, but to get their Jewish education here too. I want them to enjoy Sundays here with their peers, Tuesdays at Hebrew school, and grow up to celebrate in this place that holds so much warmth and love. As co-chair of the Reimagining Campaign, I know it is time to make the necessary changes to support our current members and families educational needs, as well as the next generation’s.

Create this legacy for our community with us!

 

DAVID WEINSTEIN:
Reimagining Campaign Co-Chair, Past President and Board member at large, Temple member, husband, father, and grandfather

As a parent, it was important to me that my children have their formal Jewish education at Temple Israel. The education they received here at TI better allowed them to understand their heritage, culture, and the relevance of Israel and the Jewish people to their lives.

I have been involved with our Congregation for many years, as both an active member, as well as serving as Temple President, as a board member, and as a committee member and volunteer. I strongly believe that it is important to give back to the community and to the organizations that you believe in. For me, Temple Israel is one of those institutions. I want to not only preserve what is important about Temple Israel, including the educational component for learners of all ages, but also build on that base and make it better than ever.

I believe it is the responsibility of our generation to future generations, our children and our grandchildren, to help create and grow Jewish values. My wife Liz and I feel fortunate to be able to make a significant contribution to the Reimagining Campaign. Join us and contribute toward this incredible legacy that we will leave to our future generations. 

 

HOWARD PRICE:
Temple Israel Religious School teacher, Temple member, and grandpa to DECC alumna and TI Religious School Student, Maddie and her baby sister Cori

I came to several Shabbat services at Temple Israel and was blown away by the Rabbis and the entire atmosphere. I used to go to services because I should, and at Temple Israel, I go because I want to.

After 31 years of teaching religious school and Hebrew, I decided to join the education staff at TI’s Religious School because I really wanted to be a part of this place. I have not experienced a more dedicated and friendly teaching staff, and our preschool program is the best. My granddaughter Maddie graduated last year from TI’s Deutsch Early Childhood Center, and her younger sister, Cori, will begin the year after next. Maddie now attends the Religious School and I love watching her enjoying her Judaism. This school has become a legacy that I’m proud to pass down to my children and grandchildren.

When I think of our school, I think of community and togetherness, of friendliness, excitement, and happiness. As an educator, I’m excited to see the Reimagining Campaign come to fruition; we certainly need updated classrooms and furniture, more technology, and a new drop-off and pick-up area. This Campaign will attract new congregants and will make Temple Israel even more of a community center and a place for children and adults to meet and learn together.

I believe that Jewish children should experience not only what it means to be Jewish and learn about our great history, but what it means to practice Jewish values and tikkun olam. I hope everyone wants to contribute and be part of this unbelievable and wonderful venture to update the building so that we can meet the needs of this great community and continue in our Jewish tradition.

 

ERIC SPIRTAS:
Reimagining Campaign Co-Chair, Board member, Temple member, husband, and father

As I’m watching my children graduate from high school, from College, and move along in life, I’m finding that I have a more significant connection to faith than time allowed during the hustle and bustle of younger parenting days. I would have loved to have engaged more in Temple and in my Jewish faith at a younger age; and as we upgrade our sought-after early education services, I know that we will continue to engage young parents to participate in this growing congregation.  

I want to be a part of that group that extends our reach for future generations, and not merely for religious reasons, but because it feels good and it feels right.

Along with my obligations as a board member, I feel it is my obligation to contribute to the Temple to support enhancements. As I grow wiser with age, I also find that because of our Jewish history, our children and their Jewish education is imperative. Join me, join Temple Israel, and join the community in building an education center that our children will be proud of one day as they are looking back and reflecting on their education here at TI.

 

MEET LIZ WEINSTEIN:
Reimagining Campaign Co-Chair, Temple member, Temple Israel Bat Mitzvah and Confirmand, wife, mother, and grandmother

My husband David and I initially chose Temple Israel Religious School for our three daughters’ religious education because that’s where I grew up.  I attended Religious School from an early age until I was Confirmed in 1976. My Religious School education at TI was a wonderful experience and I made many close friends who I still see here at Temple Israel today.

Judaism is a set of values, a way of thinking, and a way of life; Jewish education is important as a basis for identity, and if instilled in our youth through teenage years and into adulthood, our children will carry these values – Jewish thoughts and actions will become their way of life. If we want Temple Israel to survive – and thrive – the time is now for each of us to get involved and give in any way that we can.

We donated to the Reimagining Campaign because we believe in its mission. This new state-of-the-art education center will only enhance the tremendous learning that goes on inside its walls, and I am excited to be able to hand down this incredible, cutting-edge learning center to generations to come as part of our legacy. I hope that everyone is as excited and proud as we are to be a part of this transformation!

 

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Congregation Temple Israel

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St. Louis, MO 63141-7670

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