In the Beginning
Temple Solel was chartered in March of 1970 with a membership of 35 families. The synagogue was initially assisted in its formation by the southeast regional director of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), Rabbi Robert P. Frazin. In August of 1971, Rabbi Frazin officially became the rabbi of Solel.
The formation of committees and the development of leadership was created through the efforts of not only Rabbi Frazin, but the founder of the temple, Abe Durbin, a visionary and builder in the upscale developing community of Emerald Hills in Hollywood, Florida. Abe wanted Solel to be similar to Temple Beth Sholom on Miami Beach which had been his congregation for a number of years.
Temple Solel was chartered as a liberal Reform congregation to be a member of the UAHC. The first High Holy Day worship service for Temple Solel was held at the Hillcrest Country Club. Some 600 people attended that service. Dr. Robert Katz, alav ha-shalom, Professor of Human Relations at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion, said at the end of the High Holy Days, “The temple should franchise.” He was a prophet in his time, for three other new congregations in Broward County subsequently assumed the Solel philosophy of liberal Judaism.
A Growing Community
Upon Rabbi Frazin’s arrival on staff full-time, in August of 1971, the synagogue grew from 35 families to approximately 150 families by the time of the High Holy Days, with about 250 children enrolled in religious school.
Worship services on Friday nights, in those early years before there was a temple building, were held in a local high school and then an elementary school. Saturday morning bar and bat mitzvahs were held at the Emerald Hills Country Club.
Sunday religious school was initially set up with three classrooms at a local high school. That quickly proved insufficient, and had to be expanded due to the large number of children attending. Tuesday and Thursday religious school sessions, and Confirmation Classes were held at Sheridan Hills Elementary School.
Temple Solel built a thriving religious school pre bar/bat mitzvah. Temple Solel’s accredited program taught by the rabbi, for 7th through 12th graders, was welcomed into the community-wide program as another campus of the Orloff Central Agency for Jewish Education Judaica High School. Under the direct instruction of Rabbi Frazin, an 11th and 12th grade high school dual enrollment program with Broward College was also created.
Eventually, in the third year of the congregation’s existence, Abe Durbin declared, “Now we are going to build a building.” Abe arranged the financing and the acquisition of the land and was the force behind the temple to begin a building project. It took approximately three years for the building to be completed.
Initially, the temple office was in a model apartment in Emerald Hills. It then was moved to a three room office trailer on the temple’s 2.2 acres of land. The temple’s architectural design was rendered by David Novick, an architect Rabbi Frazin had met when he was assisting as regional director at the Luis de Torres Synagogue in Freeport, Grand Bahama Novick moved to Hollywood and designed the building in memory of his father. Since its dedication in 1975 at 5100 Sheridan Street, there have been three additions to enlarge the facility. Most of the fundraising for the building, its additions and refurbishment was done by Rabbi Frazin.
Over the years, the temple was deeply involved in the politics of the Hollywood area and increased to a stable membership of 730 families. The preschool was initiated by the Ganon Family along with Penny Frazin, aleha ha-shalom, Rabbi Frazin’s wife. The early childhood program which meets each weekday has received the Gold Seal of Excellence.
The concept of liberal Reform Judaism was brought to the City of Hollywood, which already had an existing Reform temple and two Conservative synagogues, one a short distance away from Temple Solel. The term “liberal” was misleading. It meant that the temple would be more liberal with regard to Jewish traditions. The wearing of a yarmulka is mandatory at worship services. This has been since the inception of the temple and is in the by-laws of the congregation. The wearing of a tallit during Torah services, is optional.
As Solel began to grow, the Conservative congregation nearby, Temple Beth Shalom, ceased to exist and a number of families from that congregation joined Temple Solel, increasing its membership. Consequently, these families have been members at Temple Solel for 15 to 20 years.
During the course of the synagogue’s history, there have been six different executive directors, four different religious school directors, three different early childhood directors, two senior rabbis, three assistant rabbis, and three full-time cantors. Cantor Israel Rosen, the current cantor, has been with the congregation since 1984.
The temple has had 17 presidents since its inception. The leadership now consists of a number of young people who grew up in the temple, and have stayed in the community.
Temple Solel initiated the founding of the Interfaith Council of Greater Hollywood, the Broward Outreach Center for the homeless, and has been deeply involved in improving the Hollywood community.
Since 1987, the temple has had an in-house caterer. Artisan Foods is so highly regarded in the South Florida community so that numerous bar and bat mitzvah and wedding celebrations from other congregations are held at Temple Solel.
The temple board made the decision that the temple should be called a “Reform congregation” and drop the term “liberal” because it was found to be too misleading.
In the course of its history, Temple Solel has created a twice-a-year Introduction to Judaism course taught by the rabbi, which has brought numerous Jews by Choice into the Solel Family. The congregation is referred to as “The Family of Solel.” It’s rich and joyful expansion has led to fulfilling its name, Solel, as a pathfinder.