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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
 

MISS MEGAN:
Deutsch Early Childhood Center Music Teacher and mom to Maxx and Frankie

"One of my life’s passions is music. I am so lucky to have a job where I get to share that passion with kids, other teachers, and the families at Deutsch Early Childhood Center (DECC).

I am also passionate about education. I firmly believe that an early childhood education gives children the building blocks they need to be successful learners and leaders later in life. And music is such an amazing teaching tool! Not only do I teach kids the basic music skills of singing on pitch and keeping a steady beat, but through music, children learn pre-literacy skills, math concepts, social-emotional skills, fine and gross motor development, and of course, the Jewish culture and values that go along with celebrating Shabbat and the other holidays.

Working here as a non-Jewish teacher has been an incredible learning experience. I have learned so much about Judaism, and I truly take to heart some of the amazing Jewish values that we teach our kids here. The children learn to be proud to be themselves, to always try to do the right thing even when it is difficult, and to take care of the world around them. They also learn respect for others no matter their background or religion. I value so much that this congregation and school are very inclusive, and as a parent, I am thrilled that my children can also be a part of this learning and loving experience. Their exposure to Jewish celebrations, holidays, and traditions are so valuable to their life’s experience.  

I’m so thrilled about the Reimagining Campaign to upgrade our school. If we are able to raise the needed funding, I’m most excited for the infant room! As mom to a 2-year-old and 4-month-old child, I truly understand how important it is to be able to provide a space for younger siblings for our current families. It will allow us to keep young families here at DECC without them having to figure out two school drop offs and pick-ups. It also keeps us competitive with other early education options that already provide this service. 

This place is more than just a school – it’s a community. And this school is so much more than the building that houses it. Though as we try to provide our families with the best education, we should also be able to provide the most up-to-date necessities and conveniences that our families expect and deserve.

Please consider joining the Reimagining Campaign for our school!"

 

SAM AND TUCKER ABELES:
TI members, DECC alums, Temple Israel Religious School students, Purim Shpiel stars, and brothers

Q: You boys both attended Deutsch Early Childhood Center when you were little. Can you share one of your favorite memories from attending the preschool.
Sam: My favorite memory is when I was a Lizard and Ms. Melissa and Ms. Shelley read the book, “The Fantastic Flying Journey.”  I loved when Ms. Melissa would stop at a really good part and say,” Dun, dun, dun!”  I also loved playing Duck Duck Goose in the Muscle Room, as well as playing on the climbing gym.  
Tucker: I remember playing with my friends in the Muscle Room and loving it!

Q: Now that you are super grown up, tell us about your experience at TI’s Religious School; what do you love, what have you learned, and what keeps you coming back each week?
Tucker: I love being with my friends and cooking. I keep coming back because it’s fun.  
Sam: I have learned a lot about Israel and the stories of the Torah. I have loved cooking, art, and learning about the holidays.  

Q: You both are obviously going to be famous performers, because you nail the Purim Shpiel every year! What do you love most about being in the Shpiel?
Tucker: My favorite part of being in the Purim Shpiel is being with my friends. Shrek was my favorite production because everyone was really good, and it was a lot of fun.  
Sam: I love that Jillian Wolfman gets everyone involved the whole time. My favorite production was the Wizard of PerOz because it was my first year in the Shpiel, and it was a really good experience. Also, I loved having my own solo.  

Q: Why is it important to you to both to learn about being Jewish?
Tucker: It’s important for us to learn about being Jewish so that we can one day teach our children all about our religion. It’s important to be around other Jewish kids because we all follow the same religion and we all have the same beliefs.  
Sam: I think it is important to learn about Judaism because at my school, I feel like there aren’t many Jewish kids, and when I’m at Religious School or Hebrew School, I’m not alone.  
Tucker: I’ve had a lot of great memories here—from DECC to where I am now. From coloring the Aleph Bet in Kindergarten to making a map of Israel out of candy, I’ve had a blast learning about Judaism.

Q: We know you boys do a ton of giving back. Why is it so important to you?
Sam: Since I know that there are a lot of problems in the world, it makes me feel good to be able to help people.  
Tucker: It makes me feel good to give back, because I know that I'm helping other children get better from being sick or just helping people who need it.  

Q: I’m sure you’ve heard about the Reimagining Campaign to update our Education Center. How do you
feel about it?
Sam: I’m really excited because my room is one of the only ones that doesn’t have air conditioning, and it gets really hot!  

Q: Why should people consider supporting the Reimagining Campaign?
Sam & Tucker: If we want a change, we need to help. We can’t just sit here and say we want a change, we need to help make that change happen.

 

JENNY ABELES:
Temple Israel member, TI Religious School alumna, volunteer, wife to Zach, and mother to Sam and Tucker

"I’ve been a part of Temple Israel ever since I can remember and have so many memories from each stage throughout my life. From attending Religious School to marrying my husband Zach, to becoming parents and raising our children here; it just feels like home.

Both of our children, Sam and Tucker, loved the preschool and all of the fantastic and engaging teachers. And now, they love going to Religious School and Hebrew School each week. They are so comfortable here and feel as though they can really express themselves fully. From acting in the Purim Shpiels, to singing on the Bimah during services or reading the Torah during the High Holy Days; the teachers and staff continue to give our kids encouragement and opportunities to shine. It’s very unusual to have such a strong support system from a school and it means the word to us.  

Judaism is such an important part of our lives as a family. We celebrate the holidays and reinforce the importance of our religion at home. However, our children need the foundation of Judaism that is taught in Religious and Hebrew School. It’s important to always know where we come from so that we never lose sight of who we are. As a volunteer at the school and past Parent Committee member, I know that the way children learn is constantly changing. While traditional classroom settings work for some, others need more play and sensory spaces. I think the more options we can provide for our students to learn can only benefit their experience here at the Education Center. Safety is also an important issue for our family. We must stay on top of security and make sure our kids are always safe at school. 

The money raised from this campaign for our school is truly an investment in our children, but also our children’s children. I want to make sure future Temple Israel students have the same wonderful experiences here as my children do. I’m so thankful of everything that this school has done for us that I want to give back and encourage others to do the same."  

 

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

#1 Rabbi Alvan D. Rubin Dr.
(Ladue @ Spoede Road)
St. Louis, MO 63141-7670

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