the early years (1869 - 1954)
Society Anshe Amunim was founded by 25 families in Pittsfield on November 14th, 1869, and in 1904, Anshe Amunim affiliated with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now known as the Union for Reform Judaism), formally establishing ties to Reform Judaism which are still maintained and embraced more than 145 years later. A long-standing principle of Anshe Amunim has been the inclusion of both genders in worship and leadership activities, as well as welcoming and respecting participation by interfaith couples and families.
Lippman & Rose Kelm, 1 of 25 families that founded Society Anshe Amunim
In 1887, the educational program of our congregation was established as the Hebrew Sunday School program . The program would later evolve into the Temple’s Religious School program, a strong program which promotes a deep and diverse religious curriculum for the youth of the congregation.
The Religious School celebrates Purim in the 1920's
1931 saw the establishment of the Temple Junior League, an organization which would later evolve into PFTY, the Pittsfield Federation of Temple Youth, which works on community service projects and encourages the growth of adolescent Jewish life throughout Berkshire County. College-aged Temple members continue to benefit from the Isabella Kelm Scholarship, established in 1967 to encourage continued growth into the Jewish community by our Temple confirmands.
1934 Confirmation Class
the middle years (1954 - 1984)
Temple Anshe Amunim was blessed by the arrival of Rabbi Harold I. Salzmann to Pittsfield in 1954. Rabbi Salzmann would serve the congregation for 30 years, and upon his retirement in 1984 was designated Rabbi Emeritus. Rabbi Salzmann continues to actively serve the congregation through his participation in services.
Rabbi Salzmann & Theodore Herberg with Religious School in 1955
In 1958, the congregation sought land to construct a new Temple building, as Anshe Amunim had outgrown its property on Fenn and Willis Streets in Pittsfield, which had been home to the congregation since 1927. In 1959, the England & Blau families of Pittsfield donated land to the congregation on Broad Street and Wendell (our current home). Designed by New York architect Henry Blatner, Anshe Amunim's new Broad Street building was opened and dedicated in August of 1964. It has since won numerous architectural awards and has bee featured in several publications for its unique features which include a domed synagogue and golden ark.
today (1984 - Present)
In the 1990's, the Women of Reform Judaism (Sisterhood) undertook a long and laborious task intended to further beautify the interior of our Broad Street building. Completed in 2000, the WRJ replaced our four Torah covers with hand-stitched covers designed by local artist Jonathan Nix.
In 2002, Temple Anshe Amunim enacted a capital campaign designed to meet many of the long range structural goals of our congregation. Our successful “People of Faith: Renewing the Legacy” campaign resulted in major functional and aesthetic improvements to our Temple building, most of which were completed by 2007.
The mid 2000’s has led to several new developments in how Temple Anshe Amunim worship, allowing for more engaging and widespread participation in services and education. In 2007, the congregation began to adapt Mishkan T’filah, the CCAR’s latest siddur which allows for universal participation in worship through Hebrew and English translations. We have also incorporated The Torah: A Women’s Commentary into Saturday morning Shabbat services and Adult Education seminars, providing a more gender-neutral interpretation to the teachings of the Torah.
As we entered our 140th year of serving Reform Judaism in 2009, Temple Anshe Amunim welcomed Rabbi Josh Breindel to lead our congregation.
Rabbi Breindel & Rabbi Salzmann welcoming the first day of Chanukah, 2009
Three years later, in 2012, the Temple saw significant growth of its Religious Education programming, as its school enrollment grew fivefold in four years. The Temple in conjunction with Knesset Israel synagogue began a Hebrew school program known as CHAI (Community Hebrew Action Initiative), in addition to our Religious School program. With the hiring of Esther Benari-Altmann as Education Director these two programs are giving our students a first-class modern Jewish education.
In 2014, TAA embarked on a new capital campaign to improve the accessibility of the Temple. The "L'dor v'dor... from generation to renovation" campaign has resulted in a new walkway to the front entrance of the Temple without needing to walk steps, the addition of an elevator to all levels of the Temple and a handicapped accessible restroom. In addition, the Bimah in the sanctuary has been lowered and a ramp leading to the Bimah allowing for all members of the congregation to participate in services. Still to be completed are new seating for the sanctuary and chapel/library and carpeting. This campaign is ongoing and support to the project is still welcome.