(History of the Sun Lakes Jewish Congregation)

The Sun Lakes Jewish Congregation was established in the late 70’s. It all began when several Jewish families moved to Sun Lakes. These forward thinking pioneers were the Duplers, Goldsteins, Levys, Cotlars, Weiss and Jastrows. During the next few years, additional families arrived and continued an active interest in creating the Jewish Congregation. These families were the Yales, Tatums, Slavins, Berks, Kays, Chases, Morris, Lerners, Klarfields, Rittbergs, Braunsteins, Shames, Golds, Salems, and Landshuts. At first, there were no officers, or dues. The first service was held in the home of Chick & Nannette Cotlar. Subsequent services were held in the homes of other families; just an informal group getting together to observe holidays and services.

The Congregation had its first service in the All Faiths Chapel on Rosh Hashonah in 1983. The services were conducted by Rabbi Tannenbaum, and assisted by Charles “Chick” Cotlar. Chick became Lay Leader, and served until 1989.

When Chick Cotlar resigned as Lay Leader, Bob Shedwick took his place in 1989 and 1990. After his resignation, a religious committee was formed to conduct services. This committee consisted of Sy Greber, Joe Lubisch, Dave Klarfield, Sam Green and Frank Alexander.

In October, 1988, a meeting was held in the All Faiths Chapel to get some input, and to plan the future of the Congregation. It was decided to create a board and have representation on the board. The first election was held and Jerry Gold became the first president. Other board presidents were Sy Greber, Sid Israel, Marvin Reiman, Lou Tubbin, Shirley Greber and Martin Silverman.

Alan Schneider was our Lay Leader from 1992 thru 1995, followed by Rabbi Lester Frazin, who served from 1996 till 2000. Rabbi Albert Plotkin served for one year; Bob Handwerger served as Rabbi until his untimely death; Rabbi Zev Wellins followed, and Rabbi Irwin Wiener became our Spiritual Leader in September, 2003.

The Sun Lakes Jewish Congregation Sisterhood was established on January 6, 1986, at the home of Pauline Yale, attended by the following women: Grace Goldstein Roth, Nannette Cotlar-Rosenberg, Lynn Weiss, Tess Braunstein, Bernice Shames, Gertrude Salem, Ruth Rittberg and Pauline Yale. Nannette Cotlar was elected as first President of Sisterhood. Others who attended this first meeting were Adele Karp, Esther Mysel, Allyn Myers, Ruth Klarfield and Ceil Lanshut. Rheta Slavin was the next President of Sisterhood. On January 2, 1989, Ruth Lubisch was installed as President. During that time, Sisterhood by-laws and Congregation by-laws were established. Sisterhood by-laws read “The purpose of the Sun Lakes Jewish Sisterhood shall be to assist the Congregation in religious and social functions and to promote camaraderie and identity among people of the Jewish faith, or affiliation in the community”. We also established our tax status, through the efforts of Herbert Cohen, formerly with the I.R.S. All the written work was done by Carolyn Arkins. Subsequent Presidents were Carolyn Arkins, Shirley Greber, Phyllis Jacques, Arly Millman, Mitzi Pinsly, Ethel (Bubbles) Rotstein, Sherine Frazin, Co-Presidents Eleanor Miller and Ann Stedman, Shelly Henden and Lana Oyer, and Shirley Shalett and Joyce Spartonos.

The Men’s Club was organized by Sid Israel, and the first meeting was held in May, 1990. Sid became its first President, followed by Sol Seidel, Ted Kessel, Bill Israel, Marvin Gordon, Irwin Plafker and Arnie Henden.

The original Torah of the Congregation was on loan from Rabbi Albert Plotkin, of Temple Beth Israel, in Phoenix. In 1985, our own Torah was needed. Letters were written by the late Barney Lerner to Ruth Shaffer of Memorial Scrolls and Trust in London, asking for a Holocaust Torah. There were 1644 Torahs that had been salvaged and stored in London. The Torah arrived and was dedicated in Sun Lakes on September 17, 1985.This Torah, which was written in 1850, came from a temple in a small village in Czechoslovakia called Kolodje.

An Ark, to hold the Torah, was built by members Sam Morris and Gerhart Landshut. All the handiwork, cover for the scrolls and drapes in front of the ark was completed by Diane Alexander. Since then, another ark was built, designed by Gloria Israel and Sy Blonder, to hold the original Torah, and, through the generosity of many members of the Congregation, a second Torah was purchased in 1996. The dedication of the Torah was held on March 2, 1997. This was a beautiful ceremony, which included the signing of the Torah.

A third Torah was obtained from the family of Kirk Kurlancheek. Kirk received this Torah from his former congregation to honor his 50 years of serving as president of that congregation. He gave the Torah to his daughter, Ena, son-in-law Peter Brown and young son Jordan, who in turn donated it to our Congregation in memory of their late mother and Kirk’s late wife. This Torah was presented during services in January, 2004.

The Sun Lakes Jewish Choir was started in 1988 by Gertrude Salem, and in 1992, Lana Oyer became our Choir Director.

On October 6, 1986, the first issue of The Shpiel, a monthly newsletter, was published by Rheta Slavin; Karen Blonder became publisher in April of 1998.

This history of the Sun Lakes Jewish Congregation depicts the dedication and efforts of a group of leaders who helped establish the foundation of an active Jewish life in Sun Lakes.

As we look to the future we hope to build upon this foundation and continue to develop a strong and viable Jewish Community.

Ruth Lubisch, Historian


If there are any corrections and/or omissions within this “History of the Congregation”, please notify me and corrections will be made.


Eternal Light, by the Congregation, in memory of Abe Dupler

Breast Plate for the Holocaust Torah, by Rheta and Izzy Slavin

Breast Plate for Torah, by Karen Blonder, in memory of Sy Blonder

2 Torah Covers, by Len Charal, in memory of his wife, Marilyn

Torah Cover, by Marilyn & Norman Zalasin, in memory of their son, Steven

Stand for Shabbos Candles, by friends, in memory of Ivan Bergenholtz

Stand for Tallit by Gloria & Sid Israel, and Diane & Marty Silverman, in memory of Sy Blonder

400 High Holiday Prayer Books, by Bernice Richmond, in memory of her husband, Milton

Lace Bema Cloth by Eleanor Gold, in honor of her daughter’s engagement

Bema Cloth by friends, to celebrate the marriage of Nannette & Morton Rosenberg

2 Bema Cloths (1 blue, 1 white), by Ruth Weber, in memory of husband Danny Weber

Bronze Menorah by Grace Goldstein Roth

Torah Stand by Grace Goldstein Roth, in memory of husband, Emanuel Goldstein

Holocaust Torah cabinet, by Ruth Friedman, in memory of husband, Justin

Congregation banner, by Rabbi Lester and Sherine Frazin, in memory of their son

Congregation banners, by Lynne Franklin and Bob Stone, in memory of Bob’s late wife, Rita, and Lynne’s late husband, Al – one for daily service and one for the High Holy Days

Challa cover, by Ruth Munzer, in memory of her husband, Jerry

Havdalah Set by Shirley and Jesse Gersten

Yad (pointer) by Shirley and Jesse Gersten, in memory of their daughter, Karen Ann Gersten-Sternheim

Seder plate & matzo plate by Karen Blonder

Nannette and Chick Cotlar: brass memorial easel, and other miscellaneous items

Lana and Bill Oyer – blue choir robes

Ruth Ostreicher-Weber – yarmulke box in memory of Len Charal

Sisterhood – breast plate and yad for new Torah

Bob and Lynne Stone - Two Torah covers in memory of former spouses Rita Stone and Albert Franklin

Alan and Marily Behr - Video projector and sound system in memory of Selma Behr

Allan and Wendy Levy - Ergot box in memory of Jean Levy

Alan and Marilyn Behr - Torah Gartels

Gail Dante, friends and family - Chanukah Menorah in Memory of Jack Dante

Carol Biales- High Holiday Kiddush Cup in memory of Sheldon Biales
Judy Elias and friends-Shabbat Kiddush Cup,  Passover Seder plate, Passover Kiddush Cup in memory of Allan Elias.


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