Our History



Temple Israel was formed to serve a growing Jewish community

A Jewish presence in the Catskill area predates the turn of the 19th century. Immigrant merchants and their families were the first to arrive, and, as their numbers grew, lay services in homes became inadequate to accommodate them. The result was the first Temple Israel. Founded in 1923 by the more affluent merchants and professionals in the area, it opened its doors on Catskill’s Main Street in 1936. A congregant, Philip Schlenker, who led services during this period, took the role so seriously that he dedicated himself to his studies and eventually became an ordained rabbi.

Then the first Temple Israel was claimed by fire

In 1973, fire ravaged the Main Street synagogue, and damage was not confined to the structure. Virtually nothing was spared. Torahs, prayer books, memorabilia – all were consumed by the flames. Insurance gave the congregation a choice – rebuild the Main Street temple or start anew anywhere.

The congregation chose to build the new Temple Israel in Catskill

On land and with a new torah donated by the Zwickel family, our present Temple arose. Through the efforts and generosity of other funding families – the Margoliuses, Meadows, Orens, and Snappers, to name just a few – new prayer books were procured. Then, led by Rabbi Philip Schlenker, today’s Temple Israel opened in 1977.

Join us at worship anytime

All are welcome. Our service is Reform, and uses the Mishkan T’filah prayer book. Kippot are optional, and dress is usually casual. After the service, everyone is invited to stay for Kiddush and a delicious Oneg … courtesy of a Temple member. It’s in the best Jewish tradition, for at Temple Israel, Judaism and food are inseparably intertwined.

Sabbath services are held regularly

During January, February, and March, Shabbat Morning Services are held on the second Saturday of the month at 10:30 AM and are followed by a potluck lunch. During April through December, Kabbalat Shabbat Services are held on the second Friday of the month at 7:30 PM and are followed by an Oneg.

Festivals and other holidays

We celebrate all of the festivals and many Jewish holidays. Please check our calendar and come join with us.

Meet our spiritual leader

Rabbi Zoe B. Zak who welcomes all with great warmth leads our congregation. Her spiritual and musical background is reflected in all that she does, whether leading songs, prayers or chanting Torah. Rabbi Zoe is honored to celebrate with the community at times of joy and to be there in times of need. You may reach Rabbi Zoe at (845) 853-5134 or email her at RabbiZoe@templeisraelofcatskill.org

Religious instruction is available

Bat and Bar Mitzvah study for both children and adults is available under the guidance of Rabbi Zoe. Traditional as well as non-traditional approaches are explored in order to determine the most meaningful path for each student.

Non-religious programs have been planned

Pot luck dinners, Mah Jongg, book club, concerts, auctions – there is so much going on at Temple Israel of Catskill. Everyone is always invited to attend, as these programs are open to both members and non-members, which is part of what makes the Temple and its community of congregants special.

The cost to belong is minimal

The annual dues structure is very reasonable. All financial discussions are strictly confidential, enabling everyone to join. For information, contact our Membership Chair at info@templeisraelofcatskill.org

Benefits are maximal

Temple facilities are available for life cycle events, and a cemetery is maintained in Catskill for all members and their families. Additionally, as a member temple of the Union of Reform Judaism, congregants are entitled to and receive all publications, goods, and services provided by that organization.

Our location is convenient

Temple Israel is located on the Greene County side of the Rip Van Winkle Bridge. It’s handicapped-accessible, and parking is available on our grounds.