Tzedakah Comes in Many Forms
Temple Beth-El was blessed with the influence of many outstanding individuals. Some would leave an indelible mark on the synagogue community. One in particular was Nathan A. Joffe, the comptroller of Monarch Finer Foods, Inc., and one of the wealthiest men in Chicago. Nathan and his wife, Anna, were introduced to the synagogue by their neighbors, the Weiszes, whose family had been instrumental in supporting the Gemeinde congregation in its early years, and had celebrated many simchas inside the temple walls.
The Joffes had recently lost their daughter, Adeline, to blood poisoning at the age of 19. Trying desperately to bring solace to his friends in mourning, Joseph Weisz suggested that Nathan and Anna attend services at the synagogue to say Kaddish with a proper minyan. The Joffes began frequenting the synagogue, discovering a warm sense of belonging that stayed with them for the rest of their lives.
Nathan had a deep appreciation for Beth-El, and he put his heart and soul into the affairs of the synagogue. In 1936, he became temple president, holding the office for 10 consecutive years and providing much-needed financial support to the congregation for many more years thereafter. Joe Weisz’s simple gesture of reaching out to a fellow Jew had astounding consequences for the temple community at-large—proof that the smallest mitzvah can change lives.
With the economic upturn in the years following the Depression and with increasing awareness of Jewish persecution abroad, American Jews began to more wholly embrace Zionism, the ardent belief that Jews would one day claim a land to call their own. Feeling the strength of their numbers, they began to mobilize within their congregations.
While the Orthodox and Conservative movements had long advocated for a Jewish state, Zionist sympathies in the Reform movement were newer and perhaps milder. Nevertheless, this addition to the Reform agenda brought increased interest to the Zionist movement in all parts of the country. It motivated a resurgence in temple membership across the nation, and Beth-El benefited from this new wave of religious affiliation.