In 2000, Sisterhood created the Evelyn Sandler award to recognize Mrs. Sandler’s longtime contributions to Sisterhood. Considered the organization’s highest honor, the award is bestowed on members who have gone above and beyond in their efforts for Sisterhood. “Evelyn was dedicated to the continuing success and well-being of Sisterhood,” recalled Niki Pancer, who noted that Mrs. Sandler was the temple’s de-facto caterer for many years. “It’s been said that this is a ‘Kitchen Award,’ but the award goes far beyond the kitchen, as did Evelyn’s contributions.” Since its inception, the award has been given to five women, including Mrs. Sandler and Ms. Pancer. Click here for a full list.
In 2001, Sisterhood began sponsoring an annual Women’s Seder, using a Haggadah written by Reva Bloom. The event, which has become an annual tradition, was co-sponsored for many years with the local chapter of Hadassah.
Sisterhood also purchased new Haggadot for the congregation at the request of Rabbi Douglas Kohn, recalled Cathy Rubin Edberg, who was president of Sisterhood from 2002 to 2004.
Following the Old Fire in the San Bernardino Mountains in 2003, Mrs. Rubin Edberg worked with artist Nancy Katz to design a commemorative silk tallis with an atarah that reads: “We stand on the shoulders of those that came before us.” Mrs. Rubin Edberg noted that Sisterhood board members and past presidents came together to tie the knots on the fringe and paint the tallis, which has been passed down to each subsequent Sisterhood president.
Hand-painted by Sisterhood members,
this tallis has been passed down from one Sisterhood president to the next.
Sisterhood also hosted two special shabbatons focused on women’s spirituality. Lisa Wise-Wolk, who served as Sisterhood president from 2004 to 2006 and again as part of a team that served from 2009-2010, noted that the day-long events included a full Torah service followed by women’s Torah study in the morning, along with lunch and various spirituality-oriented workshops such as yoga and art.
In 2007, Sisterhood members who attended the biennial WRJ/URJ Assembly in San Diego brought back The Torah: A Women’s Commentary, which was unveiled at the event. Copies of the Commentary, a collaborative effort by leading Jewish female Bible scholars, rabbis, historians, philosophers and archaeologists, can be ordered for personal use through Sisterhood’s gift shop.
The second half of the decade also brought about new Sisterhood-sponsored fundraising events that continue today, including annual Casino Nights and Mah Jongg tournaments. Sisterhood also continued its many activities in support of the temple and its members, in some cases expanding them. It was during this timeframe that Sisterhood began offering members an option to the traditional condolence meal: in lieu of the meal, members could choose to have a tree planted in Israel instead via the Jewish National Fund. Under Cheryl Sukenik, who served as Sisterhood president from 2007 to 2009, Sisterhood also upgraded the “break the fast” meal it provided for the entire congregation following Yom Kippur, expanding it from light snacks to a full meal offered free of charge.
With the congregation’s decision in 2008, under Rabbi Kohn, to relocate to Redlands, Sisterhood continued all of its ongoing activities and also took on a huge array of tasks related to moving the kitchen. This included all of the kitchen packing, unpacking and organization in the interim facility the temple used from 2009 to 2013, then again when the temple moved to its new home at 1495 Ford Street in 2013.
Congregation Emanu El moved to its new, permanent location in Redlands in 2013.
Stacy Knox, Sisterhood president from 2012 to 2014, noted that Sisterhood spent $30,000 on the new kitchen, including new appliances, granite countertops, 16 new round tables, an icemaker, a dish cabinet, a coffee maker, a silverware cart and a washer and dryer. The kitchen was designed to have a good workflow space, along with ample storage, good lighting and designated water lines for the coffee maker and icemaker, she added.
Phyllis Sweet packs kitchen items in preparation for the move.
In many ways, the kitchen remains the symbolic heart of Sisterhood’s support to the temple community, with Sisterhood providing food for brunches and events throughout the year, including monthly erev Shabbat onegs and weekly snack-and-schmooze spreads.
During the transition period and beyond, Sisterhood has continued its many other activities as well. Sisterhood continues to run the temple’s gift shop, upgrading it in 2013 with a new point-of-sale system, and to support the School for Jewish Living and provide camp scholarships via the Rabbi Hillel and Rita Cohn Campership Fund.
Sisterhood’s gift shop stocks a wide range of Judaica for every occasion.
In February of 2013, Sisterhood led a special Shabbat service to commemorate the centennial of Women of Reform Judaism. The service had about 75 attendees – more than triple a standard Friday night service, noted Mrs. Wise-Wolk, who coordinated the event along with Heidi Nimmo and Renee Kress.
Mrs. Knox, the daughter of former Sisterhood president Cherrie Lubey, has introduced a number of new social activities, including a book club and belly-dancing and yoga classes. “Come be part of our community!” Mrs. Knox says.
For Sisterhood, it’s a formula that’s working: as of fall 2013, the group had about 100 members.
Jamie Kogler, Michele Zipperstein and Jill Weissman at the Sisterhood-sponsored Night at the Races fundraiser.
“Sisterhood is a strong group of women who are committed to each other and to the temple -- you know things are going to get done and get done right! It’s such a cohesive community,” Mrs. Sukenik said.
“Under the current leadership, Sisterhood is thriving,” added former president Shelly Silver. “I’m very proud that my daughter’s generation has taken over.”