Saturday, December 19, 2015

Temple Israel

“Happiness is the only goal, justice the only worship, truth the only torch, humanity the only religion, and love the only priest.” Robert Ingersoll

Nicknamed “The Great Agnostic,” nineteenth century lawyer and orator Robert Ingersoll (1833-1899) lectured on everything from political issues of the day to the plays of William Shakespeare.  In “The Great Infidels” Ingersoll poked fun at the Christian concept of Hell, declaring: “All the meanness, all the revenge, all the selfishness, all the cruelty, all the hatred, all the infamy of which the heart of man is capable, grew, blossomed and bore fruit in this one word – Hell.”
 Cullen Ben-Daniel harvesting tomatoes

At Temple Israel Cullen Ben-Daniel traced the history of Gary’s Jewish community.  The first Temple, a temporary wooden structure, dates from 1908.  Before that, according to legend, early Jewish settlers held services in a hayloft.  Temple Beth El was built four years later.  Temple Israel is celebrating its 104th year.  Orthodox Jews attended Beth El, while Temple Israel was home to a Reformed congregation.  Evelyn Shaevel wrote:
  My grandfather, Aaron Bornstein, moved to Gary in 1908 and established a wholesale fruit company located at 16th and Broadway. He was one of the men who established Temple Beth El. He was killed January 26, 1929 when his car stalled on railroad tracks.
back row, fifth from right, Rabbi Carl Miller (1906-1984)

Phil and Dave went to pre-school at Temple Israel 40 years ago.  One day Dave told us he met God.  It was actually the Rabbi.  We’ve gone to several Bar and Bat Mitzvahs there, as well as Sunday breakfasts when there’d be speakers.  I heard pacifist David Dellinger, one of the “Chicago Conspiracy 8,” speak there.  When Ron Cohen and my “Gary: A Pictorial History” came out, we were on the program. In January the place will be jumping on Trivia Night.
 Trivia Night hosts with Mayor Freeman-Wilson

Around 1973 I interviewed Rabbi Garry Joel August at Ambassador Arms Apartments on Gary’s near West Side.  A cultured man who was the first president of the Gary Symphony, August served Temple Israel for 25 years, beginning in 1926.  In 1929, after 23 year-old Arthur Shumway poked fun at Gary’s absence of culture except in the immigrant neighborhoods, August replied that Gary might be roughhewn like other young cities but not backward.  In fact, he concluded, “Gary is America.  Every American city is Gary writ large or small.”  At his retirement banquet he stated: “My congregation had a heart that was warm, a loyalty that was always intense, an imagination that was always alive, and love that was always profound.”  In “Gary’s First Hundred Years” I wrote:
  Reverend Thomas S. Pierce described his oratorical ability as like that off a magnificent actor, with perfect elocution and a deep resonant voice.  In 1932, debating the merits of Prohibition with Frederick W. Backemeyer, he delighted the audience and infuriated the abstemious Presbyterian pastor by predicting that when his [Backemeyer’s] boys grew up, they’d be drinking beer.

“Indiana’s 200” contains an essay on Rabbi Morris Feuerlicht of Indianapolis, the first Jew to serve on the State Board of Charities and a vocal opponent of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s when that hate group dominated Indiana politics.  Feuerlicht had a healthy respect for agnostics such as Robert Ingersoll and Clarence Darrow, whom he debated before an audience of several thousand at Cadle Tabernacle, arguing, as he put it, that “without a soul, man would not be a man, but only a species of animal.”

At the Holiday bowling banquet at Hobart Lanes I pigged out on hot beef sandwiches, deviled eggs, corn pudding, veggies, and brownies.  My pickle spears went fast, and a woman inquired where I had bought them (Jewel in Chesterton).  Robbie brought an entire cake.  The Engineers took two games from Frank’s Gang despite a 687 by Mark Garzella, Sr., who had a chance for a 700 series but left an 8-10 split in his final frame.  A few years ago Garzella rolled a 767.  Our anchor Frank Shufran finished with a turkey for a 245, enabling us to win series.  Opponent Tom Iseminger resembled Al Pacino.  Duke Caminsky, resplendent in a Christmas shirt, shouted to Melvin Nelson to “hit the head pin, dummy,” although it seemed like every time Melvie did, he left a split.  Before leaving I polished off two homemade cookies and wrapped a couple brownies in a napkin for Toni.

The Gary Roosevelt and Indianapolis Crispus Attucks basketball teams who in 1955 vied for the state basketball championship were 2015 South Shore Wall of Legends inductees.  Also honored: General Lew Wallace, Civil War general and author of “Ben Hur,” and Civil War soldiers from the Twentieth Indiana infantry 

A writer who calls himself Gary Indiana made the New York magazine “top ten” list with a memoir titled “I Can Give You Anything But Love.”  The author has also written the novels “Depraved Indifference” (2002) and “Do Everything in the Dark” (2003). A gay veteran of the Haight-Ashbury scene who now teaches literature and philosophy (?) at New York’s New School, Indiana admits, “I’m old enough to justify writing about my history, but too old to remember much of it.” Living in 1919 in a commune populated by “emotionally flattened hippies . . . fond of elaborate, cruel psychological games,” Indiana recalled:
  In the long rancid afterglow of the summer of love, the Haight-Ashbury had puddled into a gritty slum of boarded-up head shops and strung-out junkies, thuggish dealers, undercover cops in love beads and fright wigs.  The hippie saturnalia had continued as a sinister parody of itself, featuring overdoses and rip-offs and sudden flashes of violence.

Steve McShane distributed ten copies of “Education the Calumet Region: A History of Indiana University Northwest” (Steel Shavings, volume 35, 2004), co-edited with Paul Kern at a meeting of the Council of University Historians, charged with planning projects for IU’s bicentennial in 2020.

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