IN THE BEGINNING – July 26, 1967, there were Sam and Jan Roberman and a total of 17 families. And Sam begat Earl, who begat Joel, and CBS held Shabbat services at Northbrook Savings & Loan and religious school classes at Wescott School. Our first Rabbi traveled an interesting path to come to Congregation Beth Shalom. Rabbi Gerry J. Rosenberg started in Chicago moved to New York served in Vietnam and returned to Northbrook. And so there was a school, a youth program, a Men’s Club and a Sisterhood. And all was good at Congregation Beth Shalom of Northbrook.
And then there was an office at 1240 Meadow Lane (Room 404) at the River Edge Office Building. A sign next to the elevator read “Congregation Beth Shalom.” And every month in the bulletin, the “Shalom,” many new names were added to membership rolls and CBS grew and held Shabbat services at the Village Church. Adult education, ritual committee, school board, membership committee and youth commission were all functioning for the new synagogue. CBS celebrated its first Bar Mitzvah on November 23, 1968. And there was a Purim Carnival at Wescott School, a Megillah reading at Greenbriar School, a lox box sale, a dinner dance at the Pick Congress Hotel and a second Seder at the Flying Carpet Motel. And at the end of our second year, CBS founded a library and all was good at Congregation Beth Shalom of Northbrook.
And the school grew and Alex Seidenfeld became its director. And CBS held High Holiday services at the Edens Theaters, Mill Run Playhouse, Solomon Schechter and Glenbrook South High School. And then the Congregation purchased a piece of land on Walters Avenue and a groundbreaking took place on September 26, 1971. The CBS slogan at Rosh Hashanah was “A New Year – A New Building.” The Congregants hoped that in 1972, their five years of nomadic living would end and a new era would dawn at CBS - no more services at a church or bank, and no more religious school at the local public school. CBS was grateful to all who supported us when we were in need, but now we would have our own home - our very own synagogue. CBS formed a special gifts committee and many synagogue members rushed to participate in the creation of their new home. About 800 people attended that groundbreaking as CBS took another step forward in its history. And all was good at Congregation Beth Shalom of Northbrook.
And 3433 Walters became our home. And as many more members joined, we also welcomed two new staff members - Rabbi Sander J. Mussman, director of education and Harvey R. Gold, youth director and administrator. With the new building came many new committees and activities, including the house committee. I guess we didn’t need a house committee before then since we didn’t have a house. We dedicated our new home on September 3, 1972 in the parking lot.
CBS held many new activities in our new home including Sisterhood Mah Jong, regular bridge, duplicate bridge, fashion shows and bake sales. The Men’s Club held its first Erev Thanksgiving program, Sunday breakfasts, picnics, golf outings, a Mother’s Day Fashion Show and our first Shabbat dinner. The school introduced Jr. Congregation and elective programs on Shabbat as well as the Gimel, Daled, Hay and Kallah programs and Purim carnivals. We also considered a swimming program in the youth lounge, but eventually that leak was found. CBS hosted its very first auction/bazaar where we sold everything and anything and served food from a kitchen that had no equipment. Our “Save Soviet Jewry” sign stood firmly at the front of the building. And all was good at Congregation Beth Shalom of Northbrook.
We opened the gift shop, the library, a new kitchen and a new youth lounge. The congregation created the Prayer Book Fund, the Library Fund, the Sabbath Fund and the Rabbis Fund. CBS conducted its first of many evening Minyans. The congregation held a Passover Seder on second night of Passover and eventually hosted Seders on the first two nights of Passover every year. Our first year in our new home ended with a Hebrew School graduation, a USY installation dinner, the Sisterhood culminating luncheon and the very first Men’s Club Kavod Award dinner. We were a real synagogue.
And Joel begat Leonard, who begat Herb, who begat Howard, who begat Fred.
A new staff member joined CBS and we had our first full time Cantor, Shlomo Shuster. The New Year brought an expanded youth program, a congregation blood donor cooperative plan, an increased school program and many new programs including an Interfaith Shabbat, social action activities, art auctions, dinner dances, Torah fund luncheons, music festivals, square dances, Chasidic services and more.
By 1974, more than 700 children attended our Hebrew school and 140 youth were members of our youth program. We already had outgrown the original building and CBS formed a committee to survey our needs and develop comprehensive plan for building expansion and growth. As the president at the time wrote:
At our recent auction-bazaar, every available foot of space was taken up including schoolrooms, the Rabbi’s office, the Sisterhood office, the youth lounge, the administrative offices, etc. Walk into the building on any Sunday morning and you can hardly find a place to stand – school is in full session in every room including the Gloss Youth Lounge; dance and music classes must be held in the lobby; Bar and Bat Mitzvah training is conducted in the mail room; and if the Men’s Club or Sisterhood want to present a program or have a speaker, they might as well hold it in a tent. Our present building, which was to handle our needs for roughly five years, has been outgrown in only two short years.
In January of 1975, the “Shalom” started listing donations for the very first time; there were five donations. We held our first Chassidic services and an Inter-Faith service that February and the first art auction that March. People caught on quickly to the art of giving Tzedakah and by March the bulletin listed twenty-five donations. The generosity of the CBS members blossomed and continues to this day when we sometimes have six pages of donations.
Harvey R. Gold became the full-time executive director and CBS hired a new youth director. The expansion committee had their work cut out for them to find a place for everyone to pray, learn, and play. CBS held Israel bond dinners and brunches each year as well as music concerts – all was good at
Congregation Beth Shalom of Northbrook.
At the beginning of 1976, CBS’ Judy Garland & Mickey Rooney said, “let’s put on a musical.” And a remarkable event was planned and produced called “Where do we go from here?” This was the story that begins where Fiddler on the Roof ends. Over 100 people participated on this project. For three nights, a full house. That program was a great “Fun-raiser.” And a few members received standing ovations for their musical numbers! We held “Nite at the Races” and a “Sunday Night at the Movies” series. USY held its seminar, Shabbat service with a Kumsitz and the school’s Kallah program and Purim Carnival grew to huge numbers. Charles J. Segelbaum joined our staff as our newest Cantor. Sisterhood sold their first cookbook “From Grandma to Gourmet.” The library sponsored its first Book Fair offering many exciting book selections for the Jewish home. We also sponsored our first “Beth Shalom Pilgrimage to Israel.”
In 1977, the new president wrote:
“As we enter into our second decade, we must realize that this, the eleventh year, is a year of decision, dedication, devotion and desire not only for ourselves, but for the entire congregation.”
The school offered a brand new program called P.E.P. (Parent Education Program) where the parents would learn the same material as their children. Rabbi Mussman took that first class and held on to them for six years. That class became the first Adult Bat Mitzvah. Other teachers taught the new Aleph class each year; it was a huge success. And all was good at Congregation Beth Shalom of Northbrook.
1978 began with the following statement:
“Our future is now: the congregation made a commitment to the future by voting to go forward with the plans to build a complete sanctuary and support facilities.”
The congregation was asked to imagine the High Holidays without Edens Theater, without Solomon Schechter, but instead seating our whole congregation under one roof. Our own sanctuary expanded to its full capacity with proper lighting and acoustics. This was part of the new dream and all that was needed was money to be raised, special gifts to be endowed and congregants desire to serve.