Our History

Temple Adath Israel is the oldest Jewish congregation in Lexington. From its beginning it has been affiliated with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, now known as the Union for Reform Judaism. Formally established in 1904, the Temple was chartered “for the purpose of religious services, a Sabbath school and other matters pertaining to the moral elevation among the Jewish people of Lexington and Central Kentucky.”


Toward the end of 1903, a small group of Jewish men living in Lexington recognized the need to organize a Reform Temple in Lexington, Kentucky. In 1904, Samuel Goldenson was hired as the Temple’s first full-time rabbi, beginning after his ordination at Hebrew Union College. Within a month of Rabbi Goldenson’s move to Lexington, the group formally incorporated under the laws of the Commonwealth of Kentucky as “Adath Israel Congregation” for the purpose of “conducting and maintaining religious institutions and religious worship, teaching and training according to the customs of American Israelites.”

The congregation purchased a building on Maryland Avenue for its first permanent sanctuary in 1905. Members worshipped there until the present sanctuary on Ashland Avenue was dedicated in 1926. In 1949 property adjoining the Temple was purchased for building a Religious School wing, and this expansion program was completed in 1950.

William J. Leffler served as the rabbi from 1964 to 1986.

In 1983 and 1984, under the successive presidencies of Charles Stern and Joe Miller, the Temple underwent a major remodeling and renovation. With a major gift from Warren and Betty Rosenthal, and a number of other substantial contributions from the Temple community, the building project was completed, affording us the opportunity to expand and enrich the life of Temple Adath Israel. The building was finished and rededicated on December 16, 1984. With the newly remodeled building came new energy and desire to improve and expand the Temple’s accomplishments.

Also in 1983, Temple Adath Israel Preschool opened. It offered quality preparation for kindergarten to children 2, 3, and 4 years old in a half-day setting.

In 1986 Jon Adland began his tenure as rabbi, remaining until 2003.

In 1987 the Temple was blessed to acquire a Torah originally from Turnov in what is now the Czech Republic. This Torah survived the Holocaust and is used during special occasions, confirmation, and bar and bat mitzvahs. It gives the congregation a commonality with those who perished in the Holocaust and provides a link to “souls” from the past.

Rose Brazin was elected president of the congregation in 1985. She was the first woman president in the Temple’s history. The congregation continued to thrive under the presidency of Dr. Ira P. Mersack from 1987-1989.

Ben Baker has the unique experience of serving as the Temple president twice, from 1989-1991 and 1996-98. Under his presidencies, the congregation moved past the milestone of 300 households as members. He concentrated on leadership development for a strong Temple future, and worked toward fiscal security for the present and future. Ben’s desire for a secure financial future helped the Temple raise adequate funds to continue to maintain the present building and expand this building when necessary.

Steve Kocen, Cheri Rose and Rob Rosenstein served as presidents between Ben’s two terms. Steve’s term of office was cut short as a result of his leaving the Lexington community. Cheri Rose served as president from 1992-1994.

Rob Rosenstein served as president from 1994 to1996. Rob sought to broaden communication with TAI members, to maintain fiscal responsibility and to make TAI a friendly environment.

Marilyn Lieber served as President from 1998-2000. Her insight and experience as a Temple Board Life Trustee and a Sisterhood past president, were beneficial to the Temple. During Marilyn’s tenure, a study of the Temple building, including the possibility of expansion, was conducted. Renovations and improvements, including the installation of a security system, and redecorating were initiated.

From 2000-2002 Jane Grisé was Temple president. Jane initiated major social action projects. Her strong organizational skills brought focus to long range planning for the future of TAI. Jane served as the Religious School Director for over 10 years. Under her guidance the Religious School created and offers an excellent curriculum to our youth and boasts top-notch staff.

Judith Hersh served as president from 2002-2004. She chaired the national search for a new rabbi for Temple Adath Israel. Under her leadership this search culminated in the hiring of Rabbi Marc Kline in 2003. Judy also coordinated the year long 100th Anniversary celebration which consisted of bringing distinguished speakers to the Temple and monthly events including reunions of confirmation classes, rabbis, past presidents, and education, and a wide variety of musical events. Judy focused on redecorating the Sisterhood lounge with new furniture and wallpaper, and the art foyer with new tile, wallpaper, and works of art. She initiated the sanctuary tapestry and bima railing projects as well as the installation of new bookcases in the entry to the sanctuary. Judy had the vision to improve communication between the Temple Board and membership at large. She actively encouraged Board members to call Temple members on a regular basis to update them on Temple events to determine how the Temple could be of service to them. This interaction between the Temple Board and the membership continues today.

2004-the Present

Starr Gantz’s presidency ran from 2004-2006. It was highlighted by not only a new mission statement for the Temple, but by the addition of the incredible tapestry, the Bima and Ark renovations, the stained glass windows in the foyer, and the lighting and hand rails in front of the Temple. These beautiful enhancements to our Temple were overseen by Susan Goldstein and the Decoration Committee and graciously funded by donations from Bill Wenneker, Arthur and Marilyn Lieber, I.A. Paritz Memorial Art Fund, Ida Baker Trust Fund, Kenneth Gerson, the 100th Anniversary Golden and Silver Donors and other Temple donors.

David Brown’s presidency, May-September 2006, was cut short due to his relocation to Memphis.

David Shraberg completed his term, serving as president from September 2006 to 2008. During his tenure, the Temple’s membership grew and younger families became involved in Temple service and stewardship. With this growth, TAI continued to prosper and enrich its programming through prayer and expansion of various events, service venues and outreach to the community. His philosophy of positivism, civility and tikkun olam toward the Jewish community and the Central Kentucky community at large were appreciated by a very dedicated and growing congregational family. The Temple bylaws were also totally revised during his tenure.

In 2008, due to the dedication, creativity and hard work by Val Nicholas and Brent Haskell, the Temple courtyard underwent a complete renovation. It is now used during the warmer months for Shabbat services and other special occasions. It is also a wonderfully calming environment in which to sit and meditate.

Samye Stith served as president from May 2008 to May 2010. The congregation continued to grow. She has promoted the concept of Kehilah (community). Samye’s term has witnessed a comprehensive reorganization and modernization of the Temple’s internal operations and policies, including revision of Temple bylaws, management and financial resource policies, a board member conflict of interest protocol, and a gift acceptance policy. The Board selected and implemented a new computer software system for fiscal management and monitoring of congregational participation patterns. The personnel policy was revised as well as formal job descriptions Temple staff. For the first time, a Procedural Audit of the Temple was conducted. Leadership retreats facilitated by nationally recognized professionals were held for members of the Board and committee chairs.

In 2009, after three years of planning and fabrication, the Temple’s Holocaust Museum opened. The museum — planning, artifacts, materials — was made possible by the generosity of David and Carolyn Schneidt.

Dr. Ken Slepyan served as president from May 2010 to May 2012. He continued the Temple’s focus on community, spirituality, and education. He worked on ways to promote leadership opportunities and to facilitate congregant involvement in Temple life.  Listening, communicating, and meeting the needs of our community were, and  are, of great importance to him.

Judy Engelberg served as president from May 2012 to May 2014. During this time, programming additions included Generation TAI to reach out to young adults, the W.I.S.E committee to coordinate offerings for older adults, and a musician in residence. A permanent sukkah was built and the temple was painted and decorated. New fiscal reporting, auditing, and data base management procedures were initiated as were fundraising events and giving opportunities. Revision of by-laws included those that broadened participation of temple groups in nominating officers.

A number of Temple past presidents continue to be involved with the Temple community. They include: Harold Baker, Stanley Scher, Jack Miller, Martin Kaplan, Charles Stern, Ira Mersack, Ben Baker, Rob Rosenstein, Marilyn Lieber, Jane Grisé, Judith Hersh, Starr Gantz, David Shraberg and Samye Stith.

A number of restricted funds have been established by Temple members and families:. These include the Abraham, Adelstein, Baker, Bloomfield, Bolotin, Gail, Gerson, Hymson, Kessler, Kaufmann, Kline, Lieber, Levy, Mersack, R. Miller, S. and F. Miller, Moosnick, Rose, Rosenstein, Rozen, Rozenzack, Scher, Sommer, and Straus funds. These initiatives, among other things, support and sustain youth activities, adult education, and cultural programs at the Temple

TAI continues to prosper and grow, offering a wide range of activities to its members. An excellent religious school, a half-day preschool program, engaging youth group activities and a burgeoning adult education program are evidence a dynamic congregational spirit. Judaism and Temple Adath Israel continue to be a vibrant part of our lives. We take our mission statement seriously and strive to assure spirituality, study, social justice and community in all we do and who we are.

Rabbi Kline accepted a position in New jersey and left TAI in June 2014. The Temple leadership felt that it would be best for the congregation to employ an interim rabbi for a year so that the congregation could take some time to decide if and how they wanted to reorganize. In July of 2014 Rabbi Daniel Roberts, who served for over thirty three years at a congregation in Cleveland, Ohio joined us. Rabbi Roberts assisted us with continuing our services, holidays, and life cycle events while we began the search for our permanent rabbi.

The search committee completed its work by January 2015 and made a recommendation to the board. In February 2015 the board unanimously approved the recommendation of the committee to hire Rabbi David Wirtschafter. Rabbi Wirtschafter accepted the position and began his work on July 1, 2015.