The roots of Temple B’nai Tikvah can be traced back to Montreal, where our founder, Ron Bing, was deeply involved with Temple Emanuel, Montreal’s Reform congregation. Ron and his wife, Judy, moved to Calgary in 1974, and after several years as members of a Conservative congregation, they decided to start their own. The first service was held on April 6, 1979 at the Bing’s home, with 13 families representing 33 people, including children. In the beginning, we called ourselves the “Calgary Liberal Jewish Congregation” and we were affiliated with the Canadian Council of Liberal Congregations.
By the following year, our membership had increased to 30 families and we were now meeting in Joel and Sandy Fagan’s basement. We purchased our first Torah, constructed a portable ark, and started a religious school with a dozen children. We also changed our name to Temple B’nai Tikvah (Children of Hope), a name suggested by Steven Switzer, a son of one of our founding families, Jack and Shauna Switzer. We also hired our first student rabbi, Avi Shulman, a student from the Los Angeles campus of Hebrew Union College.
In 1981, we moved our worship space to the Calgary Jewish Centre, which would be our permanent home for just over two decades. For the next six years, we continued to use student rabbis, but in July, 1987 we hired our first full-time rabbi, Jordan Goldson. Rabbi Goldson, along with founding member and cantorial soloist, Norm Yanofsky, led services with a warm, inclusive, and collaborative style (we love to sing) that still defines our congregation today. During Rabbi Goldson’s tenure, the Temple grew to nearly 200 families, as our welcoming and inclusive philosophy attracted both unaffiliated and interfaith families.
In 1999, Rabbi Goldson and his family moved from Calgary to Israel, and Temple hired Jamie Korngold, the first female rabbi to serve a Calgary synagogue. Rabbi Korngold served B’nai Tikvah until October, 2001, and in August, 2002, Rabbi Howard Voss-Altman became our spiritual leader.
When Rabbi Howard arrived, negotiations began to purchase Living Spirit United Church, a substantial building in Britannia, as our future home. Under the leadership of Martin Cohos, Howard Bell, and Temple President Adam Singer, we purchased the church on January 15, 2004, and on February 21, 2004, walked our Sefer Torahs from the Jewish Community Centre to our new home. We shared our building with Living Spirit (the first such partnership between a synagogue and a church in Western Canada) for three years, and in June, 2007, our home became a full-time synagogue.
In 2010, we began to renovate our sanctuary, transforming it from the style of a 1950′s church to a unique and beautiful Jewish worship space. Once again, under the leadership of architect Martin Cohos, and the artist Jeff DeBoer, we rededicated the sanctuary on March 25, 2011, and we now enjoy one of the most admired (and most innovative) sanctuaries in our city.
Our building, however, is more than just a space for Jewish worship. Today, our home serves as a gathering space for a myriad of organizations, including a Montessori School, theatre and dance companies, yoga and fitness clubs, and the home of the Calgary Men’s Choir. Most importantly, however, our home is a weekly refuge for our city’s poor and homeless, as our synagogue participates in the city’s Inn From the Cold program. We continue to emphasize social justice as one of the highest expressions of our Jewish lives.
Temple B’nai Tikvah now enjoys a membership of 330 families, and we continue to reach out to those families who wish to be involved in the most warm, inclusive, and diverse synagogue in Calgary; a synagogue that remains true to the values of our founding Reform families.