The history of Ahavath Sholom is a rich one, now spanning almost 120 years. In 1992, the salient events of our first hundred years were captured in a beautiful commemorative book.
What follows below is the entire text from that book.
The First Fifty Years. . .Hebrew Congregation Ahavath Sholom
Fort Worth, Texas
October the 9th, 1892 Record Book
It was in this manner that the outside cover of the first recorded meetings of our congregation was labeled. The very first page listed the ”Names of officers of Congregation Ahavath Sholom elected for the next 12 months?from this date, October 9, 1892”
Mr. W. Goldstein, President
M. M. Shanblum, Vice President
Mr. J. Jacobs, Secretary
Mr. J. B. Colton, Treasurer
Mr. L. Miller
Mr. L. G. Gilbert
Mr. B. Levenson
after which followed a list of the thirty-one ”Names of the Members of the Congregation Ahavath Sholom, October 8, 1893”
|Mr. W. Goldstein||H. Potishman|
|M. Shanblum||B. Levenson|
|J. Jacobs||M. Samuels|
|J. B. Colton||H. Weltman|
|L. G. Gilbert||L. Weltman|
|I. Miller||M. Weltman|
|I. Levy||C. Jacobs|
|J. H. Colton||S. Sturman|
|L. F. Shanblum||P. Selinsky|
|L. Goldman||L. Shapira|
|I. Litzer||M. A. Paler|
|T. Gans||Ph. Selinsky|
|D. Cohen||S. Coplan|
|H. Salsberg||L. T. Marcus|
1892 – A group of Jewish immigrants met at the home of the late William Goldstein on 5th and Calhoun. They established Fort Worth’s first Jewish Congregation to be known as Ahavath Sholom which means Love of Peace. The 31 founders and their families met for High Holy Day services in rented halls for the first three years.
The first minutes, translated from Yiddish, read:
October 30, 1892
The meeting was called to order at 8 P.M. by Mr. Goldstein, President. The minutes of the last meeting were read and approved. No important business was brought up and the meeting was adjourned. (Approved by W. Goldstein, President)
And so the fascinating project of Congregation Ahavath Sholom was launched. From these modest beginnings there grew, through an abundance of confidence, vision and hope, a religious institution that serves almost six hundred families today.
Fort Worth was a bustling railroad center when these first meetings were held. The host was William Goldstein, the first president, and his home at Fifth and Calhoun was the meeting place.
The minutes reflected, step by step, how the organizational routine and functions were established. It took many meetings to finalize and accept the bylaws. The acquisition of a charter was an almost insoluble problem, for there were no charter blanks available. Eventually, the Charter was acquired on January 8, 1893. Subsequently, a sign reading Congregation Ahavath Sholom was made, a gavel was purchased and a dues structure of $6.00 per annum, payable at 50? per month, was set.
Even in those days there was a turnover of membership. Each potential new member, however, had to apply, and a vote was taken before his application was accepted. According to the records, a few rejections of applications were eventually made on the basis of moral and ethical issues.
For several years the religious functions were restricted to High Holy Day services. The minutes of August 30, 1893, reflect the appointment of a special committee to make the necessary arrangements. A hall was rented for $12.00. Members were appointed to officiate, and they vied with one another for these honors. Tickets were sold at $1.00 for members, $2.00 for non-members, and gratis to those who could not afford to pay.
The minutes further reflect the financial difficulties that confronted both the congregation and the individual members. The founders, however, did not allow problems to hinder them in their progress for any length of time.
Ahavath Sholom bought a lot on Jarvis and Hemphill for $1,000
The hub of their interests and activities was the ”Shul”, despite the necessary sacrificial efforts and contributions. Gifts of funds were solicited and received. Balls, parties, raffles and every type of entertainment was held. When cash was not readily available, members donated gifts instead. Throughout many recorded minutes, the discussion revolved around the incident of a ”gold watch gift”, and the various trials and problems that it generated. Even planned legal steps had to be taken before $35.00 was realized from the sale of the watch and added to the treasury of Ahavath Sholom.
A member was never excluded who could not afford the required dues. However, several times motions were carried to suspend those members in arrears. One time, fourteen members (half of the membership) were suspended. At other times, members were suspended for failing to pay dues or other obligations. There were even times when financial assistance had to be sought by the congregants from residents of Dallas, Waco and other towns in the vicinity. Yet the records show they were always ready to reciprocate. When citizens of Waco, Cisco and other neighboring communities needed help, these men and women were ready to assist.
After several meetings and events, it was felt that a structure was needed. On May 14, 1893, a committee was appointed to seek a lot upon which to build a synagogue. On June 18, 1893, the committee reported an available lot at the corner of Jarvis and Hemphill for $1,000, $500 to be paid down and $500 to be paid out in two years. A motion was unanimously approved to purchase the lot and to establish all members in good standing as charter members of the future synagogue.
By August 6, 1893, the 50 X 100 foot lot was purchased, the deed was recorded and the bylaws of Congregation Ahavath Sholom were passed. It was not until March 24, 1895, that a committee was appointed to apply for a loan, with the lot as security, to enable them to build the first synagogue. They were able to obtain a loan for $500 without security, and that same committee of W. Goldstein, B. Levenson and J. Jacobs became the building committee.
The decision to build is detailed in the minutes. The building was to be fifty feet long, twenty-six feet high. It was to be frame, with a shingled roof. A small vestibule with a double window would face west. There would be double doors in the west, single doors in all other directions. Even the detail of windows was included, as was the description of the foundation materials.
This first building was erected at the cost of $640. An Ark was especially designed and built for $92.50. Congregation Ahavath Sholom now had its first home?a sanctuary for services, a center for activities.
In September 1895, the first Shochet, Mr. Rosenbaum, was engaged. He also participated in officiating at the services, and was probably the first paid official to be hired.
First Synagogue, a small frame building, where services were held for the next six years, was erected for $640.00.
From the modest but ambitious beginnings, Congregation Ahavath Sholom began to grow and prosper. The names of ardent workers were repeated often in various capacities?W. Goldstein, B. Levenson, M. Shanblum, J. Jacobs, T. Gans, A. Ratner, H. B. Ackin, J. B. Colton, A. Salsberg, V. Block, Z. Solomon, D. Cohen, I. N. Mehl, A. Greines and so many more. Their tenure as officers, trustees and committee members often lasted for many years. Under their leadership and with enthusiastic participation of the membership, the activities on Jarvis and Hemphill were numerous and varied.
Bought a lot at 819 Taylor Street for $1655.00 and moved the frame building to this location.
As membership began to increase, the facilities, at one time thought to be adequate and spacious, were now becoming overcrowded. The constant necessity of looking and planning ahead proved once again that a new site had to be acquired. On December 12, 1901, the lot at 819 Taylor Street was purchased for the sum of $1,655. The Jarvis Street synagogue was moved to this new site. The old lot was sold, and for the next five years, Congregation Ahavath Sholom used their old home at a new location.
By 1905, the membership had grown to nearly 100 families. Talk of a new building was enthusiastic and contagious. Mr. L. G. Gilbert translated that enthusiasm into practical efforts when he volunteered the first gift of $250 toward the building fund. Others followed suit. Official action was taken and a building committee was appointed, consisting of I. N. Mehl, President; Sam Simon, Vice President; A. Salsberg, Secretary; T. Gans, Treasurer; M. Shanblum, B. Levenson and L. G. Gilbert, trustees; and L. F. Shanblum, W. Goldstein and J. Jacobs, members at large.
These men met many times, spending many hours in deliberation. By April 1906, a definite set of plans was approved. A new brick building was to be erected on the Taylor Street property at a cost not to exceed $15,000. Revenues raised from fund-raising drives and the sale of seats would be used to pay off the loan.
Congregation now numbers 100 members and plans are started to build a more permanent structure on this site.
The Hebrew school was organized. Rabbi Blumenthal was its first teacher.
It was an imposing edifice, with the name ”Congregation Ahavath Sholom” written in bold Hebrew letters across the top followed by the year ”1906”. Steps led up to the sanctuary, and there was also a balcony. For eight years, the basement, with windows above the ground, served as the school facility and the center for various activities.
Four years after the dedication of the new building, these men of vision saw that in order to carry out the three functions of a synagogue property?Worship, Study and Fellowship?additional facilities would be needed. Another piece of property on Taylor Street, just two lots away, was purchased in May of 1910 for $8,250. A building committee to explore and plan additional facilities was appointed, with M. Shanblum as chairman, S. Simon as co-chairman, L. F. Shanblum, as secretary, I. N. Mehl as treasurer. Additional members were L. G. Gilbert, S. Rosen, W. Goldstein, J. Wolfson, J. J. Jacobs, T. Gans, L. Cohen, A. Salsberg, S. Gilbert, B. Levenson, J. Goldstein, A. Simon and N. Eckert, Felix P. Bath served as an advisory member.
A lot north of the congregation was purchased for $8,250.00 and the three-story Hebrew Institute was built.
Once again meetings were held to finalize projected ideas. There are minutes in Yiddish regarding the committee’s deliberations and decisions. Eventually, plans were drawn up and the work was started. In June 1914, the first two stories of the Hebrew Institute were ready for occupation. Later, a third floor was completed, and a many faceted program of activities was scheduled. The first floor housed the Hebrew School, and later, the Sunday School, the Rabbi’s study, a large meeting room and a library. The second floor had a kitchen and combination auditorium/banquet hall. The third floor was the gymnasium, with all the required equipment, dressing rooms and showers.
On February 22, 1925, eleven men of the Congregation met to form an organization whose projected aim was to create an endowment fund. It was not their intention to entirely support the Hebrew School financially, but rather, when needed, to assist the Hebrew School in maintaining a high standard of teaching of the Hebrew language and Judaism to the youth of the city. A resolution was drawn up and unanimously adopted, officially creating the M. Shanblum Endowment Fund. This resolution read in part:
Whereas, Mr. Moses Shanblum, a resident of our community for many years, has given unstintedly of his time and money, and has so generously and willingly striven to increase the funds available for the maintenance of the Hebrew School; for services rendered in the past he has received certain monies in the form of commissions, a part of which he has previously donated to other organizations and which were used partly in the construction of the Hebrew Institute, and approximately twelve hundred dollars has been hitherto returned to the Hebrew School, which sum has been vested in Liberty Bonds and notes, and now constitutes a basic fund for this purpose?
Many of the members of Ahavath Sholom met in the Hebrew Institute to organize a new Pioneers of the West lodge. They continued to hold their meetings there until the lodge dissolved in the mid 1940’s.
Therefore, be it resolved by the Congregation Ahavath Sholom, in meeting assembled, that in order to show its high appreciation of the noble and untiring work done by Moses Shanblum during all these years, and especially to make available a particular fund with which the School is to be maintained, it is hereby agreed that all monies received for this purpose shall be deposited and retained in the Moses Shanblum Endowment Fund for the Hebrew School?
The resolution, in its formal language, set up a permanent committee for management and administration of the fund, with the provision that all names of donors to the fund would be recorded in books kept for that purpose, and that such lists were to be made perpetual. At the same time, a Board of Trustees, to serve during their lifetime, was selected, and the following names were signed to this resolution to comprise the first Board of Trustees of the M. Shanblum Endowment Fund:
L. G. Gilbert
Israel N. Mehl
L. F. Shanblum
M. J. Chicotskey
A set of Bylaws, Rules and Regulations were adopted for the control and management of the organization, and read in part?
Section 1. The name of the organization shall be ”The M. Shanblum Endowment Fund for the Hebrew School of Fort Worth.”
Section 2. All business shall be transacted and records kept in the English language.
Section 1. The income of this organization shall consist of contributions and donations invited and solicited from individuals or societies, legacies and bequeathals made by Jewish men and women who by such donation or contribution desire to have their names linked and perpetuated with the most worthy Jewish institution, the Talmud Torah.
Section 2. A book, specially provided and designed in attractive appearance shall be maintained by this organization, said book to be known as the ”Seifar Hazichronos” or ”Golden Book”, and in the pages of said book, the names of all donors and contributors to the Endowment Fund shall be recorded and inscribed.
The trustees established a minimum subscription of $250 for the purpose of having one’s name inscribed in the book, but they were also empowered to inscribe in the book names of persons whose outstanding deeds during their lifetime left an indelible mark on the Jewish community. However, they reserved for themselves full authority to reject any subscription or donation to the Fund and to refuse to have names inscribed in the Golden Book.
An organization was formed for the purpose of financially aiding in the maintenance of the Hebrew School. The organization has accumulated a sizeable capital, the interest on the amount is yearly donated to the Hebrew School. Unlike other organizations, the members of this group are elected for their entire lifetime.
On November 24, 1925, a committee was appointed to correspond with the Bezalel School of Palestine to secure a cover for a book to be known as the Golden Book. Within its pages were to be inscribed the names of donors to the Fund. In the minutes of this meeting was the following description of the Golden Book?
The front cover on the outside is to have a Mogen David with the Kotel Maaravi picture, and in a round circle, the inscription in Hebrew. On the inside of the same cover is to be the picture of the Hebrew University; on the top the inscription in Hebrew ”Sefer Hazahav” and on the bottom ”Talmud Torah Keneged Kulam”.
The back cover on the outside is to have the picture of the Hebrew Institute of Fort Worth with the inscription ”Golden Book of the Donors of the M. Shanblum Endowment Fund of the Hebrew School of Fort Worth, Texas.” On the inside of the same cover is to be the picture of Ahavath Sholom Synagogue and under it the names of the Board of Trustees to the Fund. Two hundred and fifty gold trimmed pages are to be placed in this book, with the inscription, in gold, on the top of each page ”Names of Donors”.
Total cost of this book, which was ordered and subsequently received from Palestine on October 27, 1926, was $500. The Golden Book was publicly displayed and dedicated at a Chanukah banquet scheduled December 7, 1926.
The Hebrew school was organized. Rabbi Blumenthal was its first teacher.
Rabbi Blumenthal left Fort Worth
Abraham E. Abramowitz was Rabbi
Bengis was Rabbi
Philip Graubart, father of Alexander Graubart was Rabbi
In 1936, Jake Luskey observed that a lot which divided the Synagogue properties (the Institute and the Synagogue) would some day be useful to the Congregation. Since the Synagogue had not seen fit to purchase the lot, Jake Luskey bought it and turned it over to the Hebrew Protective Association, which was in operation at that time. It was turned over with the understanding that their only customer would be the Congregation and that the original price of $6,751.00 would have to be the selling price. Four years later the Congregation bought the lot and used it for a playground, providing the children of the Hebrew School and Sunday School with a safe place for outside recreation.
Ever mindful of the needs of the Hebrew School, and of their original purpose in creating the Fund, the members elected to purchase a station wagon. This was to be used to transport the students from the Public Schools to the afternoon Hebrew School, since it was found that many could not attend regularly due to the lack of proper transportation. This station wagon was purchased for the sum of $2,300.81, and was used from October 12, 1947 to February 28, 1951, at which time it was sold and the proceeds turned back to the fund.
As the years passed the financial structure of the fund continued to grow. The years brought changes in the membership as the elders passed away and replacements were elected. But, always, the original concept and purpose of the fund was maintained, with the continuation and progress of the Hebrew School the prime object of the membership.
At a meeting held in April, 1961, a motion was made and carried to the effect that certain sum of money be set up as a permanent capitalization and that all future contributions be added to this permanent reserve. This was done to ensure that the financial structure of the Fund would be secure, and that at all times there would remain in the fund this permanent reserve.
The ”Golden Book”, being as it were, the symbol of the Fund, was found to be in a state of disrepair and at a meeting held in October 1961, a committee was formed to have the book repaired, and to seek out a suitable display case for the book. The book was subsequently repaired, each entry checked and rechecked, and a glass-topped display cabinet was secured.
Today, the ”Golden Book”, the ”Seifar Hazichronos” of the M. Shanblum Endowment Fund, proudly, yet humbly proclaims that the cherished dream of those original eleven men has come true; the Hebrew School in Fort Worth, Texas has continued to flourish and expand, and will forever be endowed for the generations to come.
1942 ? 1972
Now that the synagogue and its facilities were completed, Congregation Ahavath Sholom enjoyed an air of security and permanency.
The programs, meetings, dances, luncheons and dinners held in the Institute were numerous and varied. Young and old, affiliates and non-affiliates?all met there. The Men’s Club, the Ladies Auxiliary, Hadassah, BBG, AZA, Young Judea, Boy Scouts and other organizations on a rental basis made use of the new structure. During World War I and World War II, the Hebrew Institute became the center for service personnel. Dances and entertainment were planned for them. Indeed, the continuous hustle and bustle within the Institute was valid evidence of its need. Its popularity and constant use was gratifying and rewarding to the congregation.
However, as the membership continued to increase, those buildings, so practical and useful for several years, once again became inadequate. The sanctuary could not contain all the worshipers during High Holy Day services, and the overflow crowd had to meet in the Hebrew Institute. Some Sunday School classes had to be scheduled in closets. The influx of new people and the returnees from World War II further emphasized the crowded conditions.
The location was problematical. By now, Congregation Ahavath Sholom found itself situated in the middle of the downtown district. Parking lots were located across the street and a children’s playground was next door to the sanctuary. With no air conditioning, windows had to be opened for ventilation. The flow of street traffic, the noise in the nearby parking lots and the shouts of children at play wrought havoc with any possibility of decorum during religious services. The benches, seating many more than they were designed to accommodate, added to the discomfort of the worshipers. The desirability of new facilities began to gain momentum once again.
There was understandably some opposition to a possible move. Some of the pioneers, whose dedicated efforts and sacrificial contributions made the first two synagogues a reality, were reluctant to leave ”their home”. They felt activities would be greatly reduced if the present location were abandoned. Some felt that although the property was now valuable, it was not proper to build on the income of the past alone. A proposition was articulated that if the younger generation ”were interested in building, then they must show their interest through contributions.”
The first practical step was taken in 1947. A Memorial Plaque, upon which members could have the names of their beloved departed inscribed, was to be established. The names would be read at every Yizkor service. It would be known as the Memorial Building Fund Plaque. All proceeds would be set aside for the building project.
Isadore Garsek hired as Rabbi
In 1948, the site committee reported a possible location at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Myrtle. Upon investigation, the Board of Directors found this site suitable and approved its purchase. A year later, a temporary building committee was appointed to keep the project alive. Preliminary plans were studied and a general approach was approved.
In the latter part of 1950, at a general congregational meeting, the building of a new synagogue was approved. A month later, the sincerity and earnestness of those who advocated the new location was demonstrated, even to the satisfaction of the few opponents of the plan. The occasion was the Ladies Auxiliary annual birthday dinner. Instead of the usual program, the meeting was dedicated to the ”New Building Plan”. Pledges and contributions were solicited, with the Ladies Auxiliary’s $1,000 donation spearheading the drive. Before the meeting was adjourned, the sum of cash and pledges amounted to $147,000.
On Sunday, February 18, 1951, a procession came down Eighth Avenue, led by four men holding a Chupah. An elder of the congregation, Harry Rosenthal, carried a Sefer Torah, accompanied by Haskell Daiches, M. J. Chicotsky, J. Goldstein and Rubin Rovinsky. Rabbis Garsek, Brachman and Blumenthal, Reverend Leibson and Cantor Friedman, officers, board members and other dignitaries as well as a large number of congregants followed the Torah, canting appropriate hymns and songs and stopping approximately where the sanctuary was to be erected. Prayers, addresses and greetings were delivered. Then, with a shovel prepared especially for the occasion, the ground was broken. The honor of the ground-breaking was assigned to the charter members, the elders and the representatives of the synagogue’s affiliated organizations.
The lot at Eighth Avenue and Myrtle was purchased.
The next step was to dispose of the Taylor Street property. A committee, chaired by Irving Rosenthal, reported to a special congregational meeting on March 4, 1951, that a buyer was available. The March 24, 1951 edition of the Star-Telegram read, ”Dancigers Buy Synagogue Property on Taylor Street.” The synagogue, the Hebrew Institute and the lot in between were purchased by Jack Danciger and his daughter Ruth for a sum in excess of $200,000. Mr. Danciger took immediate possession of the Institute, but agreed to allow the congregation to use the synagogue structure temporarily.
Once again services and Hebrew School were held in the original Taylor Street building. Sunday School, however, had outgrown the facilities and began to meet at Lily B. Clayton Elementary School. When Mr. Danciger decided to take possession of the old structure, a November 16, 1951 newspaper article announced: ”Last Meeting In Synagogue Is Announced” ? Members of Congregation Ahavath Sholom will meet in the Synagogue at 821 Taylor Street for the last time at 8 P.M. Friday?”
Through the courtesy of Mr. Danciger, a home on 1723 Hemphill Street became temporary headquarters, rent free. Members of the Men’s Club, armed with brooms, paint and brushes, made the home usable for daily services and Hebrew School. Friday evening services were held in Lily B. Clayton School. Holy Day services were held in the Blackstone Hotel. For a while, we were reliving the experiences of our early founders.
As the new building, designed by Fort Worth architect C. O. Chromaster, took shape, feelings of pride and excitement could be detected in its future inhabitants. Congregants stopped by on the way to and from work to watch construction. Upon completion in September 1952, the edifice was teeming with activity. All through the day and late in to the night, people dropped in, just to be there and to meet their friends there. Detailed descriptions and pictures of the new sanctuary, chapel, auditorium, banquet hall, kitchen, library, offices, Rabbi’s study and classrooms appeared repeatedly in the newspapers.
A dedication banquet was held on Thursday, September 11. Some seven hundred people filled our Center to overflowing, with many more wanting to attend but being turned away because of space limitations. On the first Sabbath Eve, the curtains separating the sanctuary from the auditorium had to be opened to accommodate seating for several hundred additional worshipers.
On Saturday night, in the beautifully decorated Center, some five hundred people met for the Dedication ball. The orchestra, entertainment and refreshments were enjoyed by all until 11:55 when the music stopped. Slowly the congregants entered and filled the sanctuary for Slichot services. The following morning was set aside for the dedication of the school wing. There were brief remarks, prayers and refreshments, and then a tour of the entire building was given for those who had not had the opportunity of visiting previously.
Thus, the dedication weekend came to a close, ending on the high note of cultural and educational aspirations. The entire event had well-defined the three aspects of our congregational program?worship, study and fellowship. Sabbath and Holy Day services, daily minyanim and special events were attended enthusiastically. Both the Hebrew and Sunday Schools showed an increase in registration and attendance. For a number of years, the preschool, under the direction of Lil Goldman, attracted children of members and nonmembers alike, until it eventually became part of the Dan Danciger Jewish Community Center program. The purchase of the lot on the north side of the building for use as a Youth Center and for some classes did not adequately alleviate the lack of space that was being experienced. Thus, at the April 12, 1959 annual meeting, a motion was passed to add additional classrooms, an assembly hall and a gymnasium. Under the leadership of George Levitan, the expansion plans were realized and Dedication Convocation program was held May 7, 1960. The convocation was to confer the Honorary Degree of Doctor of Hebrew Letters on Rabbi Garsek by the Hebrew Theological College of Chicago, Illinois. The Dedication Services were to open the new addition of ten large classrooms, three private offices, a meeting room and a recreation center.
Kosher butcher shop closed in May. Arrangements were made for Kosher killing of chickens at the TCU Poultry Co. in order to meet city requirements and supply Kosher meat.
On May 15, a convocation service was held honoring Rabbi Garsek. Dr. Oscar Fasman, President of Hebrew Theological College of Chicago bestowed honorary Doctorate of Hebrew Letters on Rabbi Garsek. This celebration was held in conjunction with the dedication of our new educational facilities.
Received pledges of $3,000.00 from 32 members to be used for collateral so a bank loan can be obtained by new operator to buy and operate the Kosher meat market.
With construction and expansion programs completed, the congregation was able to enter into the 1960s with a stronger dedication and improved facilities. It was during this period that severalchanges took place within the synagogue. The first Bat Mitzvah was celebrated during a Sabbath Eve service, with many more soon to follow. Under the direction of Simon and Miriam Zipper, the Hebrew School was strengthened. Hebrew instruction and prayer underwent a transition from Ashkenazic to Sephardic pronunciation.
Plans and preparations were begun for the congregation’s 75th anniversary celebration. The commemorative event was observed in February 1967 with a gala banquet and program. The 412 family membership of 1967 grew to 460 families by 1973. A year and a half
In June a joint Friday night service with Temple Beth El was held. This is the first such joint service in twenty years.
later, 502 families were members, and by the end of the decade, the congregation’s membership totaled over 550 families. This growth in membership was accompanied by a host of new programs to serve our congregants. A Young Married’s Group was established, a new Sabbath Eve prayer book was adopted, congregational Shabbat dinners sponsored by the Ladies Auxiliary were initiated. Adult education lectures, concerts, youth breakfasts and many other such activities were enjoyed by our members.
1972 ? 1993
In February 1972, President Sheldon Labovitz reported that the Cassco Land Company was offering to sell the congregation a ”12 acre parcel of land on the southwest corner of Briarhaven and Hulen.”
On October 20 the Board of Directors authorized purchase of 12 acres on Hulen and Briarhaven for sum of $100,000.00 as possible future site for Shul.
In March, Labovitz appointed Charlie Levinson general chairman of the planning council to deal with all matters concerning the land, its use, and sale of the present Shul building. Shortly thereafter, Al Sankary, who later succeeded Labovitz as Shul president, took charge of some of the matters in connection with the sale of the Shul, and then became involved in the planning of the new building. The frustrating job of selling the existing Shul was taken over by Bob Kragen. Sheldon Labovitz accepted the responsibility for raising the needed funds, a job that appeared to many to be impossible.
In April 1972, at an open meeting of the congregation, Marcia Kornbleet moved that the membership accept a donation from the Mary Potishman Lard Foundation of $100,000 and purchase the site at Hulen and Briarhaven. The Motion was passed by the 155 members who were present, and a new dream began to take shape. The congregation was informed in August 1972 that the land had been purchased. By March 1973, the congregation began interviewing architects and subsequently chose the firm of Growald-Shutts. In November of that year, planning chairman Milton Hamill announced that drawings of the new sanctuary were ready to be inspected.
On September 30, Ground Breaking ceremonies were held.
Under President Harry Cohn, the planning for the new shul moved into high gear and efforts to sell the old shul to the Radiation Center moved toward final success. Ground breaking ceremonies were held September 30, 1979, and construction was begun November 21, 1979. The excitement surrounding these new developments was tempered by President Milton Hamill’s announcement that the long and highly productive tenure of Rabbi Isadore Garsek as active Rabbi of the congregation had come to an end. Rabbi Garsek, who served our congregation for more than thirty years, announced his retirement. Rabbi Alex Graubart was selected to lead our congregation, with Rabbi Garsek serving as Rabbi Emeritus until his death in 1985.
Our beautiful new building was officially dedicated the weekend of December 5, 6 and 7, 1980. Once again a procession of congregational leaders, dignitaries and members could be seen carrying the Sefer Torahs to our new place of worship. The mezuzah was affixed, prayers were said, speeches were given, and a new era in Congregation Ahavath Sholom’s history had begun.
With the official dedications of the building, responsibilities of the Planning Council came to an end.
The last dozen years have brought additional changes and challenges. In 1980, a request was made to allow Sabbath morning Bat Mitzvah celebrations. Board minutes reflect a definition of our congregation as conservative with traditional leanings. Rabbi Graubart accepted a position in California in 1981 and was succeeded by Rabbi Jack Izakson. The Fort Worth Hebrew Day School, established in 1981, was housed in our facilities until moving into its permanent home in 1988. A Mother’s Day Out program was also begun at this time. The Educational Endowment Fund was set up in March of 1982; and additional financial goals were realized when Sheldon Labovitz received a standing ovation from the board of directors upon his announcement April 24, 1983, that the note on the new building had been paid in full.
Minimum dues in 1983 were $450, increasing to $600 by 1991. New developments in 1984 included the purchase of the congregation’s first office computer and the development of a new section in the Ahavath Sholom Cemetary. Yet the minutes of 1984 demonstrate that, in spite of the changes, some things remain the same. Mention is made of the Men’s Club purchase of a flashing light to be set on the roof outside the chapel. This flashing light would be an indication to those driving by that having enough men to make a minyan is still as much of a problem today as it was twenty years ago.
The Isadore Garsel Patriotic Gardens were formally dedicated on November 30, 1986. That same year Cantor Gary D. Kessler was hired as director of education and youth activities. He organized a youth group that, with the help of the Men’s Club and Ladies Auxiliary, sponsored many monthly activities for our children. Trips to local attractions were enjoyed by dozens of students, as were annual weekend retreats and Purim celebrations.
The Isadore Garsek Patriotic Gardens were formally dedicated on November 30.
On September 18, 1988, the Kornbleet Memorial Chapel at Ahavath Sholom Cemetary was dedicated in memory of Larry Kornbleet. The year 1989 saw the necessity of selling 200 High Holy Day seats at $100 each to raise funds for a predicted budget deficit.
Celebrations and changes continue to leave their mark on the 1990s. May 6, 1990 was the date the congregation presented a plaque to Max Pila in honor of his 35 years of service. The Ladies Auxiliary
The Kornbleet Memorial Chapel of Ahavath Sholom Cemetary was dedicated in memory of Larry Kornbleet on September 18.
75th anniversary celebration took place in 1991. This was also the year the congregation voted to change our constitution to read that religious services would be conducted in a conservative, rather than a traditional, manner.
Rabbi Sidney Zimelman was hired as religious leader of Congregation Ahavath Sholom on May 14, 1991. Working in conjunction with Rabbi Zimelman, President Harry Labovitz and the officers and directors of the congregation continue to guide the membership into our second century.
The congregation voted to affiliate with the United Synagogues of America and to extend to all members of the shul, regardless of gender, egalitarian rights in religious services.
On December 6, 1992, the congregation took an historic vote to formally affiliate with the United Synagogues of America and to extend to all members of the shul, regardless of gender, egalitarian rights in religious services. Congregational ties continue to be strengthened by social and religious activities such as Shabbat dinners, Shabbat services for preschoolers and their parents, the annual Chevra Kadisha dinner, the Purim Seudah, a congregational seder, hosting of the Southwest Region Shabbaton for the United Synagogues of Conservative Judaism, and, of course, the celebration of our first 100 years.