Our History

Original Name

Celebrating 100 Years of Jewish Heritage 2025

Temple Israel is a caring center of Jewish activity in the Florida Heartland. We reflect a concern for individuals, as well as the community at large, while promoting an acceptance and adherence to our traditions. Our Temple is affiliated with the URJ. In our beautiful Sanctuary we celebrate meaningful and inspiring Shabbats, Festivals, and High Holy Days, as well as all Life Cycle ceremonies. We offer educational programming for children and adults.


We also have a Women’s Lunch Bunch, which meets every month.


Temple Israel welcomes all Jewish persons coming from many different backgrounds, as well as their non-Jewish loved ones. Everyone is encouraged to participate with us in our beloved heritage.


History of the Temple Beth Israel and Temple Israel

December 1925, a small group of Sebring men assembled for the purpose of building a House of Worship for the Jewish residents of Sebring and neighboring communities on a piece of land that Mr. Sebring had donated for this purpose. Who were these men who were part of this early assemblage? The first Jewish settler was Mr. Michael Kahn who had come to Sebring with his wife, Sadie, from Lithuania in 1923. He was known to be one of Sebring’s leading merchants and a highly respected citizen. Mr. Michael Kahn had the honor of being the first President of the Congregation of Temple Beth Israel.

The second Jewish family to locate in Sebring was Mr. Ed Wolf and his family, who was known as an outstanding citizen with interest in all civic matters. Mr. Ed Wolf’s father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Wolf, and his brother, Mr. Isidore Wolf and family, joined Mr. Ed Wolf in Sebring. The construction for the first temple was overseen by the Wolf family.

The next Jewish family was Mr. L.N. Willis, who arrived during 1924 to visit his lifelong friends, the Wolf family, and stayed.

Then through Mr. Kahn’s efforts came the Aaronson family who were prominent merchants who brought in the Rich family, Mr. Louis Roenbaum, and others.

Mr. J. Teitleman and family were among the early Jewish settlers and was one of Sebring’s progressive merchants.

The Bernard family, Mr. and Mrs. A Austin, Mr. and Mrs. S.H. Tobin, the Berstein boys, Mr. L.W. Steiner, Mr. and Mrs. H. Dunn and family, Mr. and Mrs. A.J. Bruch, Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Bean, and Mr. and Mrs. Max Steiner were among other settlers as well as the Wartell family.

The first Jewish services in Sebring were held in the Masonic Temple during September, 1925. A number of visitors from nearby cities attended. This first gathering was the nucleus of the congregation who decided to build Temple Beth Israel.

It was at first thought that because of the small number of the local Jewish population that they would have great difficulty raising sufficient funds for the building, but the plan went forward with the first step delegated to Mr. Alfred Wolf who purchased a Torah in New York City. A Dedicatory Ceremony was held and a sum of $1100 was contributed toward the building fund. More monies poured into the fund from the hearts of many Sebringites, as well as other Jewish people who lived in Palm Beach, Okeechobee and Ft. Pierce, as well as contributions from elsewhere.

A building committee composed of Mr. L.N. Winkler, Mr. J.T. Teitelman, Mr. S. Wartell, immediately let the contract. In less than sixty days, the Temple was ready for occupancy. Mrs. Alfred Wolf presented the garments for the Torah. A number of other contributions were made, including a solid gold key from Mr. Winkler of New York City. Liberal financial aid was given by all the Sebring folks, and the Temple was completed.

It is with deepest gratification, ever appreciative efforts of the handful of pioneer Jewish citizens of South Florida who made this place of worship possible, where a true guiding influence in the spiritual teachings of the Talmud and Torah could manifest itself and make good men and women and good law abiding citizens.

(The above information was taken from the “History of Beth Israel”- a January 3, 1926 dedication handout)


The revival of Jewish life in Sebring was short lived. Michael Kahn died in 1943 at 51 years of age and Hendricks Airfield closed at the end of the war. From 1945 until the mid-1950’s the synagogue was rarely, if ever, used, and it was torn down after the building developed structural problems.

After Mike Kahn’s death, Sadie Kahn and her children as well as other Jewish families had to travel for religious services and to provide her children a Jewish education. In the 1950-1960’s Sadie Kahn, surrounded by her family, opened up her grove home to Jewish travelers and guests as she hosted Shabbat evening dinners, religious services, and other community events. By the 1970’s, Sebring Jews began to reorganize the congregation under the leadership of Marvin Kahn, Harry Roseman, and Al Morrow.

They briefly rented space at an Episcopal Church, before holding services in the Leisure Lakes Clubhouse in Lake Placid for many years. In 1979 Rabbi Morton Applebaum (of Akron, Ohio) started serving the congregation on a part-time basis, and they began to work on building a synagogue in the mid-1980’s.

By fall of 1986, the congregation had raised $100,000 toward a new building, some of which had been kept in a savings account since the sale of Temple Beth Israel’s original property.

Tom and Marjorie Wohl donated land for the new synagogue, and the community hosted a groundbreaking ceremony in October 1986. Although the congregation only had fifty families when they started construction, they were confident that the new building would attract Jews from around Highlands County who had been traveling elsewhere for services, Jewish education, and social events.

The synagogue opened in 1987 under the shortened name of Temple Israel. In late 1980’s and 1990’s, the small congregation offered religious school and adult education as well as regular religious services led by members and visiting rabbis.

(This information was taken from the Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities, Sebring)