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Cuban Hebrew Congregation Timeline
September 22: Meeting at the Lucerne Hotel in Miami Beach features 13 people. Enrique Kalusin is named president; Dr. Felix Reyler is named secretary.  The name “Cuban Hebrew Circle of Miami” (Circulo Cubano Hebreo de Miami) is adopted. Reyler, Dr. Bernardo Benes and Oscar White are designated to write the Declaration of Principles.
November 20: Meeting at Mercantile National Bank in Miami Beach to finalize the constitution of the association.
December 1: General assembly of more than 150 people approve the declaration of principles and objectives of El Circulo. Enrique Kalusin is unanimously appointed as president.

February 5: The official incorporation certificate of the Cuban-Hebrew Social Circle of Miami is drafted.
March 30: Jewish Floridian publishes article about forming of El Circulo.
-Ofelia Ruder begins her work with the congregation, eventually becoming the full-time secretary.

-El Circulo rents a hall at 1534 Washington Avenue for meetings and social functions.
-The youth section of El Circulo is organized.
-The first Reina Esther, Lily Penso (Medel), is crowned; the Purim event would come to be a part of the congregation’s participation in helping Israel.
-First services for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur take place.

-El Circulo moves to 1519 Washington Avenue and has large events, including High Holy Day services, in the auditorium of Washington Federal.
-The Education Committee, presided over by Sholem Eppelbaum, is created.
-Rabbi Dow Rozencwaig begins presiding over weekly Shabbat services.

-Congregation moves to 1242 Washington Avenue.
-Rabbi Rozencwaig becomes the congregation’s full-time rabbi. Daily services begin.
-The congregation sets up a table at Opa-Locka Airport to welcome refugees coming from Cuba.
-November 1: The name is officially changed to Cuban Hebrew Congregation.
-Rabbi Rozencwaig and the educational committee, directed by Sholem Epelbaum, organize the first Hebrew School of El Circulo. Beit Sefer Ivri Yavne provides Sunday classes to children.
-Until the early 1970s, El Circulo works to help Cubans coming to South Florida through the Freedom Flights.
-The Greater Miami Jewish Federation organizes its Cuban Division.

-“Cuban – Hebrew Group of the Combined Jewish Appeal – Israel Emergency Fund” evolves from meetings of the congregation.
-The congregation’s Sisterhood (Women’s Committee) is formed; its first president is Esther Sapoznik. In its four decades, the Women’s Committee has helped Bayit Lepletot orphan’s home in Jerusalem, Girl’s Town, Magen David Adom and other organizations, as well as doing community work in South Florida and overseeing synagogue programs, including the Mother’s Day and Father’s Day celebrations.
-The congregation conducts a one-year experiment with a daily Hebrew school for children.

-The congregation has its first High Holy Days services at Miami Beach’s De Lido Hotel at the corner of Lincoln Road and Collins Avenue. Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services continue there until 1983.
-Through 1971, the congregation organizes “El Nuevo Casino,” where members’ families get together for sun and fun during the summer months. Also known as Balnearios, the events take place at the Coronet Hotel in Miami Beach (1969), Allison Hotel in Miami Beach (1970) and Coronado Hotel in Surfside (1971).

-January: Inter-American Chapter of Hadassah is founded; El Circulo leaders and members have been strong participants ever since.
-The congregation begins to donate ambulances and bloodmobiles to Magen David Adom, Israel’s emergency service.

-March 12: The board, led by congregation president Dr. Pablo Tachmes, decides to purchase the property at 1700 Michigan Avenue, land at the corner of Lenox Avenue and 17th Street and another house on Lenox Avenue to build a permanent synagogue.
-Congregation creates its Board of Trustees.

-May: Congregation members participate in a Miami Beach parade and rally celebrating the 25th anniversary of the State of Israel.

February 15: Closing on purchase of property for permanent synagogue.

-August: Small synagogue building opens at 1700 Michigan Avenue and includes a sanctuary, Gimelstein Hall for meetings and events, and synagogue offices.

-November 28: Small synagogue building at 1700 Michigan Avenue dedicated with an Open House that attracts 400 people. The temple is called “Beth Kneseth Szmuel Szechter,” in memory of Jack Chester’s father. The congregation will later come to be known as Temple Beth Shmuel.
-The Debutante Ball takes place for the first time. Two more such balls would take place in 1979 and 1980.

-The Youth Committee becomes Club Hatikvah until 1980.

-September 19: Services conducted with a 100-year Torah from El Patronato in Havana, Cuba. A yarmulke and tallit also come to the congregation from El Patronato.
-Throughout the early 1980s, leaders of the congregation work to help Cubans who came to South Florida during the spring of 1980 from the port of Mariel in Cuba.

-Congregation hires Cantor Moshe Buryn on a full-time basis.
-A medical clinic in Kiryat HaYovel, a neighborhood in Jerusalem, opens with the assistance and support of Cuban Hebrew Congregation.
-June 6: The congregation celebrates its 20th anniversary with a gala at the Fontainebleau Hilton hotel in Miami Beach.

-Ground is broken on the $2 million large synagogue building, designed by Oscar Sklar.

-Congregation, whose services had previously been in the Orthodox tradition, joins United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
-The large synagogue at 1701 Lenox Avenue receives a “Best Institutional Project” award from the Miami Beach Development Corporation.
-The large synagogue celebrates its first High Holy Days services with new Rabbi Barry Konovitch.

-January 27: The congregation dedicates its large synagogue, at 1701 Lenox Avenue. The structure is designed by congregation member Oscar Sklar. The stained-glass windows of the Twelve Tribes of Israel and the Jewish holiday artwork on the bimah are designed by Inge Pape Trampler. Mexican artist Naomi Siegman designs the candelabras on both sides of the bimah. The name of the synagogue, “Temple Beth Shmuel,” honors Shmuel Schacter, the father of Jack Chester. In addition, the Olemberg Ballroom is dedicated by Isaac and Nieves Olemberg, in honor of Isaac’s parents.
-Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek visits the synagogue and addresses the congregation.

-Congregation members participate in the shul’s first mission to Israel. Subsequent visits to the Jewish state would take place in 1991 and 1998.

-Congregation members participate in a march in Washington, D.C. to call attention to the plight of Jews in the Soviet Union.

-June 3-4: The congregation hosts a 50th anniversary reunion of survivors of the S.S. Saint Louis, known as the “Voyage of the Damned.” Events include religious services in tribute to those who perished in the Holocaust and the dropping of a marker in the location of the ship off the coast of Miami Beach in 1939.

-The congregation pays off the mortgage on the large synagogue at 1701 Lenox Avenue.

-Rabbi Shimon Dudai becomes the new spiritual leader of the congregation.

-December 13: The congregation participates in the opening events for the Miami Jewish Film Festival that has since become an annual event. It’s the second incarnation for the festival; the congregation had participated in a previous Jewish Film Festival in 1992.

-Through the spring of 2002, the congregation hosts a series of programs presented by the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach, including the first Jack Chester Memorial Lecture.
-The synagogue hosts “Portraits of Our Past,” an exhibit of the Jewish presence in Greece before the Holocaust.

-The congregation takes part in local commemorations of Cuba’s 100 years of independence from Spain.
-Rabbi Hector Epelbaum becomes the new spiritual leader of the congregation.

-Congregation opens the Estrella and Elias Pasternak Montessori School.

-Rabbi Mayer Abramowitz becomes the congregation’s full-time rabbi until 2009.
-Congregation hosts Centro Israelita reunion.

-Congregation hosts reunion of last graduates from Centro Israelita in Cuba.

-Congregation debuts video, “The Journey of the Cuban Jews,” which is shown at various community events and a 2010 program at the Jewish Museum of Florida.

-Cuban Hebrew Congregation celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Copyright 2003 Temple Beth Shmuel    -   Donated by Albert & Gela Asis