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History of The Kings Park Jewish Center
When the history of Long Island Jewry will be written, prominent place will be given to the Kings Park Jewish Center. It was one of the earliest Synagogues on Long Island, and its history is a fascinating story which involves a world famous Jewish personality, an inspired vital community, and a dream which came true.
The early history of the Kings Park Jewish community is to a large extent the history of two Eastern European immigrants, Elias and Jennie Patiky, who moved to Dix Hills, Long Island from New York City to farm in about 1898. Following them to Long Island were Elias’ parents, Gershon and Rachel Patiky, Elias’ brothers, Max and Jacob, and their wives and his teenage brother, Sam. Other uncles, cousins, and in-laws followed also, and settled in the Smithtown, St. James, Kings Park and Huntington areas. The home of Gershon and Rachel became a gathering place for relatives and the few other Jews who lived in the area. During Jewish holidays, services would be held in their home and Jewish families from Port Jefferson to Bay Shore would gather, often sleeping over at Elias’ home.
In 1904, the Jewish Agricultural and Industrial Aid Society, a subsidiary of the Baron Maurice deHirsch foundation, bought land in Kings Park to be used as a testing and training farm for immigrant Jews. If they found that they liked farming and were successful at it, they could buy property in the rural Jewish colony in the Vineland area in Southern New Jersey. The training farm in Kings Park was about five hundred acres spanning from Kings Park Road to the Mayfair area in Commack. Indian Head Road passes through this land today.
The managers of the Baron deHirsch foundation felt it was important to introduce
and encourage Jewish activity in rural areas so they formed the Kings Park
Jewish Brotherhood with the Patiky family in 1904. This Brotherhood was really a
fraternal lodge organized to encourage Jewish activity in the area and to
provide for the burial of the area’s Jews. It is interesting to note that the
first signature on the Brotherhood’s charter and possibly the Brotherhood’s
first president was a man named Smith, a gentile (possibly a descendant of the
founders of Smithtown). The Baron deHirsch foundation donated an acre of the
farm soon after the Brotherhood was chartered for use as a cemetery for the
Brotherhood which today is located at Indian Head Road.
At about this time, Elias Patiky retired from farming and moved to Kings Park, where he opened a dry goods store. He built a large house on what is now Patiky Street, where services were held on holidays until 1907. At this time, the first synagogue was built a few feet away from the house. Money was raised for the materials and some of the Brotherhood members, such as Elias and his brothers and Jacob Okst, an in-law, practically built the synagogue by hand.
In about 1911, Jennie Patiky decided that the women also needed an organization. She spoke to all her friends and relatives in neighboring towns, who contacted every Jewish woman in their area. She gathered a group of about thirty Jewish women within about a twenty five mile radius and formed the Hebrew Ladies Auxiliary. This group acted as a social club to bring Jewish women together and also as a social service organization to help raise funds for the Brotherhood and do private charity work. As needy cases came to their attention, they would donate relief funds where necessary.
Religion in Kings Park
The first generation in Kings Park was fairly orthodox. Families kept kosher by importing meat by boat from New York City and by a series of shochets who lived in the area. These shochets also acted as part-time rabbis and taught the children Hebrew. A mikvah (ritual bath) was built in the basement of the synagogue, probably the first one built on Long Island. The mikvah, when first proposed, was a source of controversy as some Brotherhood members felt that it was unnecessary, but the more traditional members prevailed and the mikvah was built. Actually, the mikvah was important for more than just ritual purposes. As there was no running water in town, some women used the mikvah as a community bath house.
The old synagogue also featured a balcony for the women. This was used by all
the women until the mid l930’s when Leona Kleet, an active member and later
president of the Sisterhood, who had been raised in the reform tradition,
decided to sit next to her husband. No one stopped her and at services at the
next holiday, more women sat downstairs. Eventually, only a few of the older
women remained in the balcony (except during the High Holiday services when a
crowded synagogue and tradition filled the balcony with women.)
Although ritual traditions were followed in the beginning, Sabbath observance was more difficult. Almost all of the original families were storekeepers whose busiest day was Saturday, and they felt that they had to keep their stores open in order to support their families. Many of the families did have a traditional Sabbath meal on Friday night, however, and in driving to synagogue, they
usually parked a little distance away from the shul so as not to offend a few of the more orthodox members of the Brotherhood.
Actually, Sabbath services were held sporadically until the late 1930’s. At first, all holidays were observed; , people from all over Suffolk County, stayed at the homes of members of the Patiky family during the holidays. Services would be led either by a shochet or some of the more religious members of the Brotherhood. In the 1920s, this began to change. There were years when only high holiday services were held, although the Brotherhood and Sisterhood met regularly. The synagogue appears to have been closed for a while in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s. The inactivity in congregational worship appears to have lasted until about 1937, when a student from the Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbi Slonum, came to town to organize services, apparently on his own initiative. He was the first of a series of weekend rabbis, seniors at the Jewish Theological Seminary, who came on Friday afternoon, led services on Friday night and Saturday morning, taught the children on Saturdays and Sundays, and sometimes even adult education classes. With the arrival of Rabbi Slonum, the synagogue began to offer conservative services. Late Friday night services (9 PM) were instituted, followed by an Oneg Shabbat, where the small congregation would discuss the rabbi’s sermon or perhaps some political or civic subject. Often Hebrew songs would be sung. By discussion and through song, the Oneg Shabbat helped foster a feeling of solidarity. The services (or “gatherings”) became the high point of the week for many.
The other weekend rabbis, Jacobson, Kan and Breen, continued Rabbi Slonum’s work. Although they stayed only a year, they became quite attached to the congregation. It is said that years later, these rabbis mentioned the Kings Park Jewish Brotherhood in their sermons as an example of the kind of warmth and friendliness a
synagogue should display.
During the 1930’s and 1940’s, in the years when the congregation did not have a weekend rabbi, rabbis and cantors were hired for the high holidays. One year, Herman Wouk, the famous author, who was living in Northport at the time, led services, served as cantor and then donated his fee to charity. In addition, for a while, he made his donations to the UJA in honor of the Kings Park Brotherhood.
In 1950, our first full-time rabbi, Maurice Kirshenbaum, was hired. He continued the tradition of late Friday night services, started a junior congregation and the Minyanaires service (see section on Youth). Minyans on Saturday morning continued to be a problem and in order to make a minyan, Rabbi Kirshenbaum, who was also part-time Jewish chaplain at the Kings Park State Hospital, took a group of five to seven patients who were interested to the synagogue for services. Lunch was provided for them by women in the Sisterhood, (primarily Jennie Patiky and Millie Bronstein, whose kashrut was trusted by the Rabbi) as they missed their lunch at the hospital.
Rabbi Kirshenbaum stayed for about ten years. In 1961, Rabbi Walkenfeld became Kings Park’s rabbi. Although it was felt that he was a good rabbi, the congregation needed a combination rabbi-cantor and in 1962, Rabbi Perkins was hired. The Brotherhood found that he was too orthodox for the congregation, and he left after two years. He was replaced by Rabbi Abraham Cohen in 1964. After Rabbi Cohen received his Ph.D. in psychology, however, he left the post for Canada, where he became a school psychologist. Rabbi Norman Zdanowitz, who came from a congregation in Maine, was hired in 1966, and stayed until 1972. Rabbi Rafael Wizman, a Morrocan who received his training in New York, became Kings Park’s rabbi in 1973. He left in 1975. That year Rabbi Gordon Papert (a graduate of The Jewish Theological Seminary) filled the post. On Friday night, the services under Rabbi Papert were conservative with about fifty percent of the service in English. Evening and Saturday, Monday and Thursday morning services more traditional. Rabbi Papert was our Rabbi until 1997 when he informed the temple that he was emigrating to Israel. A search committee was formed to find a rabbi for the synagogue. For approximately one year during the search process, the Kings Park Jewish Center was without a rabbi. The congregation was led by several long time members of the temple during Friday, Saturday and holiday services. Our search this time lasted about 8 months when Rabbi Seth Sternstein was hired in August of 1999 for the coming year and he continues to be our rabbi.
During Rabbi Sternstein’s tenure, the temple has been reinvigorated, as he has
instituted many new and exciting events. During his first year at the Kings Park
Jewish Center, adult education classes in Hebrew and the study of the Bible were
instituted. He also started a series of
monthly Saturday “lunch and learn” services wherein a traditional Saturday morning service was held followed by lunch and a discussion of timely topics related to Judaism. In June of each year, we now have a Friday night service “Under the Stars” (weather permitting) on our “Great Lawn” which has had great attendance and success. There are special
celebrations for each major holiday. For Succoth, lulavs and etrog are made available for the congregation and after Succoth services light refreshments are served in our Succah. Simchat Torah is celebrated with a joyous service of singing and dancing with our Torahs. For Chanukah, a large menorah built by temple members is lit on the lawn of the library followed by music and singing in the temple with latkes and dessert following. Every Purim, the Megillah is read to the congregation amidst much joyous noise. With the coming of Passover, a model seder is held for the Hebrew school students. This year for the first time, a full second seder was held in the temple for members to attend and celebrate the holiday. Rabbi Sternstein continues to stimulate and challenge our congregation with his spiritual guidance.
For many years, until about 1960, the Kings Park Jewish Brotherhood functioned more as a men’s fraternal lodge than as a congregation. Burials and cemetery arrangements for its members and other Jews in Suffolk County as well as patients in the state hospital was one of its most important functions. Until about 1964 members were not only entitled to burial plots but also to coffins and other expenses of burial.
Although maintenance of the cemetery was an important Brotherhood function, it
was not the only one. The Brotherhood also contributed to various charities,
especially Jewish charities, and were particularly active in raising money for
the UJA during WW II. To raise funds it ran a variety of social activities often
in conjunction with the Sisterhood. Card parties were monthly or bi-monthly
affairs during the 1940’s and 1950’s. Entertainers were hired every few months
from the Jewish Welfare Board to perform in Kings Park as a way to raise funds
and attract new members. Every so often a dance was held. In their minutes
members were referred to as “Brother” Last name. They were required to take an
oath for admission into the Brotherhood.
“ I (name in full) do hereby promise that I will abide by all the rules and regulations now governing the Jewish Brotherhood of Kings Park, or any by-law that may be hereafter enacted. I promise to attend all meetings if within my power to do so; to help enforce the constitution of the Jewish Brotherhood and to be a worthy member of this Congregation, so help me G-d.”
Sometime in the 1930’s the Sam Patiky family donated their house on Patiky Street to the Brotherhood to be used for the meetings of the Brotherhood and the Sisterhood. This became known as the “clubhouse” and its rooms the “clubrooms”. Thus, the Kings Park Jewish Brotherhood acted more as a men’s fraternal lodge than as a congregation. Religion and even education of the children were clearly secondary concerns. In many ways, the Kings Park Brotherhood was patterned after the east side landsmen clubs made up originally of people who lived in the same area in Eastern Europe and who concerned themselves with burial and charity. In some ways, in fact, the Brotherhood was almost a “cousin’s club”, as almost 2/3 of its 20 or so active members were related in some way.
This changed to some extent during Rabbi Kirshenbaum’s tenure when more Jews
began moving into the area. The founding members began dying off. The second
generation, the mainstay of the congregation during the 1930’s and 1940’s, began
retiring to Florida. The third generation, people now in their thirties and
forties began leaving the area for college. Members who were not part of the
Patiky family began breaking away from the Brotherhood and Sisterhood to form
congregations in their own towns which had begun building and
suburbanizing before Kings Park started. Membership began to decrease. For a while, the Brotherhood considered moving to Smithtown where many new Jewish suburbanites had recently moved, but decided against it as trends indicated that eventually Kings Park would begin suburbanizing also. This began to happen in the late 1950’s, but Jews did not begin moving into the area in any numbers until the mid 1960’s.
In the meantime, on May 28, 1962, the synagogue, which had been renovated in the
early 1950’s, completely burned down by a fire caused by a faulty oil burner in
the basement of the building. At the time, Jack Patiky, a member of the
congregation’s Board of Directors and grandson of one of the builders of the
synagogue, said that among the torahs destroyed was one brought to this country
by his grandfather (Gershon Patiky) in 1887 and one that a survivor of the
Holocaust had kept with him during his imprisonment. Jack Patiky told Newsday
“the synagogue was built by the sweat of the brow of my father (Elias), Grandfather (Gershon), my father’s brothers and several others.” At the time of the fire, the temple was Suffolk’s oldest synagogue and considered a historical landmark by Suffolk County.
Almost immediately, with sixty-five families, the Brotherhood and Sisterhood
began to raise money to build a new synagogue. In the meantime, services were
held in the Clubhouse. Construction was started in 1964 and completed in 1966
prior to the High Holiday Days. In 1967, our present synagogue was dedicated.
Before this, in 1964, the Brotherhood changed its name to the Kings Park Jewish
Center. It was not rechartered but did revise it’s constitution. Women were
accepted as members and the Sisterhood became an organization under the
sponsorship of the Center. A men’s club was instituted in the early 1970’s which
incorporated many of the social and fund raising functions of the old
Brotherhood for men. In 1974, after years of debate, the Kings Park Jewish
Center affiliated with United Synagogues. Today, the Kings Park Jewish Center
has about 100 families as members and functions as a modern
From about 1911 to 1931, the Sisterhood remained a rather loosely organized women’s club which took care of charity cases as they arose and raised funds to help support the Brotherhood, the various Hebrew and Sunday schools, and the youth groups. For a period in the 1920’s, it appears to have been inactive. It reformed, however, in 1931 and in 1932, affiliated with the Women’s League for conservative Judaism. Sisterhood officers attended Women’s League leadership workshops and followed their guidelines in organizing the Sisterhood. Several members of the Sisterhood became officers in the eastern Long Island Division of the National Women’s League. The affiliation gave the Sisterhood, still called the “Hebrew Ladies Auxiliary” structure. It gave it the outline of a constitution and made suggestions as to various committees to organize, etc. The Sisterhood became a well organized club and increasingly more sophisticated as the years passed. For example, according to its constitution, in 1932, its purpose was to “promote good fellowship” among the Jewish population in the vicinity, to defend and protect Judaism and Americanism, to aid needy cases, and other matters pertaining to the welfare of Jewish life in this community. (In the late 1930’s it dropped its affiliation with the Women’s League but reaffiliated sometime in the 1940’s.)
By 1951, however, its purpose according to its Constitution was “to assist the Jewish Brotherhood of Kings Park in maintaining the Synagogue and Center (the clubhouse) for the Spiritual, Recreational and General Welfare of its members: to maintain a school for instruction in Jewish doctrine and the development of Jewish Culture.” By this time, in addition to the regular offices (Secretary, Treasurer, etc.) it contained standard committees with specialized functions. Some of these were By-Laws, Education Entertainment, House, Program, Sunshine (visiting the sick), Ways and Means and Welfare. Other standing and temporary committees were formed as the need arose.
By 1966, the Sisterhood structure became even more sophisticated. It officially
changed its name from the Hebrew Ladies Auxiliary to the Sisterhood. Its
standing committees included Adult Education, Bookshop, Library and Publication,
Ceremonial and Gift Shop, Cooperation with other organizations, Sunshine,
Hospitality, House, Judaism in the Home, Israel Affairs, Oneg Shabbat, Ways and
Means, Membership and Retention, Nominations, Outlook, Parliamentarian and
Revisions, Program, Publicity and Public Relations, Sisterhood School Relations,
Social Action, Torah Fund (refers to support of the Jewish Theological
Seminary), Visual Techniques, and Youth and Student Activities.
Even after the Brotherhood became a congregation in 1964, the Sisterhood remained open, i.e. one does not have to be a member of the Congregation to join the Sisterhood.
The Brotherhood, Sisterhood and later the Congregation have maintained themselves primarily through members contributions. There have always been dues and assessments which have usually been kept small. Various fund raisings were held periodically. Card parties, as mentioned earlier, and later Las Vegas Nights were popular. Dances and entertainers also brought in funds. The Sisterhood has maintained a gift shop since the late 1940’s. The greatest amount of money, until about 1960, however, came from Yom Kippur pledges. In the mid 1960’s. Bingo was instituted and lasted until 1975, when the Congregation could no longer find a place to run it. It was later reinstituted and was run at the VFW Hall on Church Street and later at the Kings Park Jewish Center. It lasted until the early 1990’s when it no longer was profitable and it became difficult to have enough volunteers to run it. The nursery school, run since the early 1970’s, is also a large source of funds.
The Kings Park Brotherhood was never a wealthy group but most of its members were comfortable businessmen who could afford to donate relatively large sums for the time. Less was needed, however, as the Brotherhood had fewer expenses. There was no full time rabbi until 1950. The mortgage on the synagogue was paid off in 1947. The clubhouse was donated. In the beginning, the Sunday School teachers and youth group leaders were volunteers. The Sunday School and Hebrew School budget came almost entirely out of the tuition paid by parents.
After the new building was erected in 1966, however, expenses increased a great
deal. Expenses for the physical plant increased. Youth group leaders were paid.
Hebrew school teachers, who had been paid since the early 1950’s, received
higher salaries. A secretary and custodian, Minnie Halufska, were hired. For
over 50 years, Minnie was our “housekeeper” and the heart and soul of the King
Park Jewish Center. She kept our house neat and clean and always in order. If
something needed to be fixed or was missing, Minnie was the go-to person to get
it done or find it. Our Friday night and Saturday morning kiddush tables were
always ready after the services and our social hall always cleaned and ready for
the next day’s activities no matter how late we stayed to kibbitz and shmooz
after our simchas and holidays. In 1972, a full time Hebrew school principal was
hired. In the meantime, the character of the congregation changed. Instead of
being composed mostly of businessmen and doctors from the State Hospital, both
of whom old timers claimed could usually come up with the money when the need
arose, the congregation consisted mostly of people on salary struggling with
mortgages and young families. Over fifteen percent of the congregation were
“handicap cases.” That is, they paid reduced or no assessment or dues. To many
of the new congregants, donating money to the synagogue was not a top priority.
Thus, expenses grew way ahead of the congregation’s income. To compound this
settlement made with Rabbi Zdanowitz upon his departure was a serious financial blow. The Kings Park Jewish Center was left heavily in debt. However, today the Kings Park Jewish Center is no longer in debt and pays its bills on time.
It is often assumed that suburban synagogues exist more for the children than for their parents and that many join a synagogue chiefly to obtain a religious education for their children. Until the 1950’s, however, education was not a high priority of the Kings Park Brotherhood or Sisterhood. Hebrew school and Sunday School classes were held sporadically when there were enough children to sustain one. Often parents would hire private teachers who came into their homes to teach the children how to read the prayer book and follow the service or to prepare their sons for Bar Mitzvah. During a few years in the early 1930’s, the Kings Park Brotherhood worked out a deal with the synagogue in Huntington and sent the children to Hebrew school there. During the years when there were weekend rabbis, the rabbis taught classes mostly in reading Hebrew. Rabbi Slonum held a confirmation class the year he was at Kings Park for students 14-16 years old. During Rabbi Slonum’s administration, a Board of Education was set up which is still in operation today.
The first continuous Sunday school started in 1947 with two volunteers, Alida
Miller and Seymour Singer. It was run on an informal basis with three classes,
the junior, intermediate and senior. Students attended until they or their
parents felt they had gotten all they could out of it. Hebrew was not taught and
the emphasis was put on Zionism, holidays and customs, and history. Since Mr.
Singer was interested in music, Hebrew songs were taught. Arts and crafts were
incorporated into the curriculum for the junior class. Model Seders, Purim and
Hanukkah parties were run yearly. Every year, usually in the winter time, the
Sunday school went on a field trip to various places of Jewish interest in New
York City, including the Spanish Portuguese Synagogue, the Jewish Museum, Temple
Emanuel, and Yeshiva University. These field trips were discontinued after a few
years, revived in 1954, and were again discontinued in the early 1970’s.
All this was done by the Sunday school teachers and perhaps a few other interested people. The Brotherhood and Sisterhood at this time had nothing to do with the Sunday school. (For a time in the 1930’s, the Sisterhood had given the Hebrew school, which was then in operation, a certain amount of financial support and set up a restricted Hebrew School fund. By the late 1940’s, however, this became inactive.) In 1949 or 1950, a member and later president of the Sisterhood, Sylvia Cares, became disturbed by the lack of support the Brotherhood was giving to the school and proposed that the Brotherhood donate $10.00 to give each of the fifty students in the Sunday School a small gift for Hanukkah as a way of showing the students that the Brotherhood was interested in them.
With the arrival of Rabbi Kirshenbaum in 1950, the Sunday school was transformed into a three day a week Hebrew school with paid teachers. At first, it maintained the junior, intermediate and senior classes and later (the date is not clear) it developed into a four year program with a pre-Hebrew Sunday class for six and seven year olds. The rabbi was the principal of the Hebrew school and he also taught classes. During the 1950’s the school operated much like an old fashioned Eastern European Cheder. There were two classes, one for the younger children and later in the day, one for the older children. Various grades sat around a table in the rear of the synagogue and studied the Siddur. Modern Hebrew was not stressed during Rabbi Kirshenbaum’s tenure but many students learned to daven and practiced at regular Sunday morning Minyans. The Board of Education was put on the Board of Directors to act as a liaison between the congregation and the Hebrew school. Hebrew school students paid tuition which was supplemented by the congregation budget and by grants from the Sisterhood.
In 1970, a five year Hebrew school was instituted following the United Synagogue’s curriculum. In 1972, the congregation hired a full time principal, Alexander Konstantyn, for the Hebrew school. The Hebrew school emphasized learning and leading the service and studying the Bible, with the final year emphasizing history and Zionism. The Saturday morning junior congregation service, first begun in 1951, was sponsored by the Hebrew school. Once a month students in the Hebrew school led the Friday night service. Parents and other congregants were very impressed with the quality of education the students received and their ability to follow and conduct the Sabbath and holiday services. There is no longer a junior congregation; however, once a month a family service is still held with students taking a large part in the service.
On and off since about 1941, adult education classes were held by weekend rabbis, outside people and later the full time rabbis. In 1965, the Sisterhood got together with the East Northport and Commack Jewish Centers for Bible study and Jewish history. The Sisterhood ran afternoon classes for its members which were taught by Bella Wizman, Rabbi Wizman’s wife when he was rabbi and later by Rabbi Papert. Today, Rabbi Sternstein continues to hold adult education classes in Bible study and Hebrew. In addition to classroom activity, a library has been maintained by the Sisterhood since at least the 1950’s, made up of books donated by the congregants and occasionally supplemented by books donated by the synagogue.
The first youth group, the Bar Kochba Club, started in the mid 1920’s, under the initiative of the Sisterhood and Rabbi Kertzer, one of the first shochets. It was comprised of Jewish young people in their late teens and early twenties who ran their own social activities and sponsored a yearly dinner dance for the Brotherhood and Sisterhood. This group apparently lasted until the early 1930’s.
A Young Judaica group was formed in 1930, for teenagers and lasted until sometime in the 1940’s. A Youth of Zion group was formed after this and lasted for a brief period. These groups had the use of the clubhouse but were run independently of the Brotherhood. In 1946, Young Judea was revived by Lee Koppelman, a member of the congregation. They ran their own activities independently of the congregation and led groups for elementary, junior high and senior high students. In 1972 or 1973, when the congregation joined United Synagogue, these groups affiliated with USY. Although occasionally there was some discussion or some activity of Jewish content, these groups were primarily social and athletic, with arts and crafts included in the program for the elementary group. For a while, in the early 1970’s, a boy’s basketball team affiliated with the youth group played against teams from other synagogues. The Youth groups were supported by a Purim carnival they ran every year as a fund raiser, dues, and money from the congregation budget. The regular youth group had a primarily social emphasis whereas the Young Judea, its predecessor, was primarily Zionistic. For awhile there was a group that had a primarily religious orientation, the Minyanaires and Minyanettes. This group was composed of post Bar Mitzvah boys and girls during Rabbi Kirshenbaum’s term. The rabbi, who wanted to keep young teens involved in Jewish center activities after their Bar or Bat Mitzvahs, started a service on Sunday mornings for young teens (14-15) followed by breakfast and discussion on a Jewish topic. Unlike Young Judea, which functioned at the same time autonomously of the Brotherhood and received no Brotherhood support except for free use of the clubrooms, the Minyanaires’ breakfast was paid for by the Sisterhood. In addition to Sunday morning discussion, the Minyanaires’ occasionally held social activities such as dances. They also held an annual outing to Jones Beach. Each year they sponsored a Mother’s and Father’s Day breakfast for their parents. These activities, however, were secondary to the Sunday morning discussions.
After Rabbi Kirshenbaum left, the Minyanaires’ youth group disintegrated but the Minyanaires’ service group remained. Instead of classes on Sunday, the third and fourth grades of the Hebrew school (5th and 6th graders) attended the Sunday morning service followed by breakfast and a discourse by the rabbi. This was discontinued with the advent of the five year Hebrew school program in 1971, for the third and fourth grades (Gimel and Daled classes) and for the fifth grades (Hay class) when Mr. Konstantyn was hired in 1972. Two or three times in the 1960’s, the congregation ran a college age social or dance, but there were not enough college age students living at home in the congregation to make a college age youth group viable.
Many Jews were active in civic affairs. Elias Patiky and Saul Goldberg were on committees to bring water and electricity to Kings Park. The various Patiky men also helped to organize the Kings Park Volunteer Fire Department. Seymour Singer belonged to the Lake Grove School Board for many years. Bertha Sincoff was active in the Red Cross in Port Jefferson. Others were active in other civic clubs.
In the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. the Kings Park Methodist Church held a Brotherhood Day where some of the weekend rabbis spoke. In Young Judea, they held an interfaith dance in 1948. The Sisterhood donated several books on Jewish subjects to the public library in the 1930’s and 1960’s. In 1966, Rabbi Zdanowitz started an interdenominational dinner where local clergymen and civic leaders were invited gratis along with congregants who paid admission. This was quite successful and was done for three years, but had to be discontinued as the congregation was losing too much money.
Few things are more impressive about the Kings Park Brotherhood and Sisterhood than the warmth and sense of solidarity that it had. Of course, the Brotherhood and Sisterhood were a family with most of the members related in some way. It was this feeling of togetherness and belonging that kept the Brotherhood and Sisterhood going. Brotherhood and Sisterhood leaders built their lives around the synagogue. Most of their friends belonged and were active also. Both clubs were small enough so that everyone knew everybody else as the Brotherhood and Sisterhood each had about twenty active members. These people felt they had a lot at stake in maintaining the organization.
The Brotherhood and Sisterhood realized the importance of the solidarity and support they provided to their members. The Brotherhood maintained a Shiva committee, which made funeral arrangements and comforted the mourner, and a Sickness and Distress committee, which visited sick Brotherhood members. The Sisterhood had parallel committees, the Sunshine committee, which visited the sick and later its own Shiva Committee. Oneg Shabbats and community Seders as well as large family Seders that involved many members of the Kings Park Brotherhood also fostered a feeling of warmth.
This feeling began to wane, however, as the congregation increased in size and the synagogue organization became more complex. The old members began to complain that they did not know anybody anymore, older members died out or moved to Florida and the new suburbanites took over running the congregation. Many new committees were added to the congregation management as the synagogue took on new functions and needed more money. In short, the Jewish congregation of Kings Park turned from a small men’s lodge and women’s club into an institution, a Jewish Center, in a span of about fifteen years (1955-1970).
The majority of this history was taken from a research paper written by Sharon Long of Kings Park in 1978. Additional information was found in a publication entitled “The Story of the Patiky Clan”, published by the Kings Park Historical Museum, sponsored by the Kings Park School District. A special thank you to Mark Patiky and Michael Miller for their personal recollections from temple history and of their family.
Photo Credits: (PHOTOS COMING SOON)
Page 1 – Patiky-Okst family – Courtesy of The Kings Park Historical Museum
Page 2 – Mr. Herman Wouk – by David Hume Kennerly from the back cover of “The Hope”
by Herman Wouk
Page 3 – Shabbat Under The Stars 2000 – by Sondra Huggins, Chanukah 2003 – by Victor Susman
Page 4 – Synagogue Fire photos – Kings Park Jewish Center
Page 5 – Ground breaking ceremony Courtesy of The Kings Park Historical Museum
– Rebuilding the Kings Park Jewish Center photos – Kings Park Jewish Center
– Kings Park Jewish Center April, 2004 – by Victor Susman