By Wendy Holdren
The congregation of Temple Beth El held a special ceremony last month honoring three of the original founding members of the synagogue, Irene Fink, 89, Mary Jo Sopher, 83, and Ira Sopher, 90.
After the Shabbat service June 21, Fink and Mary Jo Sopher were surprised with a cake and comments from the congregation members who expressed their appreciation for their commitment to the Temple as senior members and mentors. Ira Sopher was unable to attend.
Temple Beth El was founded as the Beckley Hebrew Association in 1935 and at one time had a membership of 70 active families.
The current active mailing list includes 40 families. The Temple is a member of the Union of Reformed Judaism and is one of only eight existing synagogues in West Virginia.
The struggle to keep the small Temple vital in the local community is inspired by the presence of these three elders, the congregants agreed.
Temple Beth El Treasurer Gail Kinsley said that a student rabbi visits from Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, one weekend each month to conduct Friday night services and other special events. Various members of the Sopher and Fink families are always in the pews for at least the Rosh Hashanah services every fall. Tom Sopher, a Beckley councilman, is the longtime volunteer president of the congregation.
For more information about Temple Beth El, call 304-252-0198.