Despite the economic and demographic changes of the 1990s in San Bernardino, both the congregation and Sisterhood remained a focal point for the Jewish community.
One of the fondest Sisterhood memories of three-time Sisterhood president Sheri Maltzman occurred not long after she moved to the area in 1990. “We were enveloped by the congregation right away, and I joined Sisterhood. When Purim came, Niki Pancer organized a group of women to make hamantaschen. We were in the kitchen, and we had a boom box playing music and we were in an assembly line making the hamantaschen – we made over 700 of them! We just had the most fun.”
By this point, with more women working outside the home, Sisterhood held Sunday brunches rather than weekday luncheons. Nancy Darling, who was Sisterhood president from 1989 to 1991 and again in 1995, recalled the strong support of Rabbi Hillel Cohn and his wife Rita Cohn at Sisterhood activities, including the monthly brunches: He was at every brunch, where he led the HaMotzi blessing, and she was at all of our events.”
During Mrs. Darling’s tenure, Sisterhood brought back the Tour of Jewish Living, in which members of the community were invited to visit temple members’ homes that had each been set up to showcase a specific Jewish holiday.
Sisterhood’s progressive dinner before Selichot was also popular, Mrs. Darling recalled. It was modeled on a similar event, the Merry Mixer, which had been held in earlier years: after gathering at one member’s home for appetizers, participants would split up and dine at various homes hosting group dinners and then reconvene at the temple for dessert and midnight services.
Sisterhood also continued its support of the religious school (which had been renamed the School for Jewish Living), including providing the model Seder, decorating the sukkah for Sukkot, and organizing a Hanukkah department store where children could purchase inexpensive gift items for their families.
Margot Carrera in Sisterhood’s gift shop at 3512 North E Street.
Although the funds Sisterhood raised were primarily used to support the School for Jewish Living, Sisterhood also was able to provide financial support to the temple itself, including new chairs in the social hall, a fire curtain for the social hall stage, and new lights for the parking lot.
Other ongoing support included funding summer camp scholarships, providing meals of condolence (and being at the bereaved family’s house during the memorial service), and providing the Friday night oneg Shabbats. “The oneg Shabbats were amazing,” Mrs. Maltzman said. “Nearly all of the desserts were homemade. We’d set everything out with linens and doilies, and the ladies would serve coffee and tea in silver urns.”
A Sisterhood-provided oneg Shabbat spread.
Mrs. Maltzman traced the beginnings of the Sisterhood singers to a fundraising event held at the temple during the 1990s. “We turned the social hall into a cruise ship setting and called it the HMS Emanu El,” she said. “We were slightly irreverent – we sang a parody called, ‘How do You Solve a Problem Like the Rabbi?’ and we weren’t sure how he was going to take it. But he got his shofar and played ‘Rock Around the Clock,’ and everyone started jitterbugging.
Barb Smith, Sheri Maltzman and Lisa Wise-Wolk
of the Slightly Irreverent Sisterhood Singers practice for an upcoming performance.
“I’ve said it to new women who come into the temple: the most fun you can have in a temple is in our Sisterhood,” Mrs. Maltzman added.