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“Digging Our Roots” The History of TBI

The dirt is flying as efforts to uncover the roots of the history of the Jewish community in Laconia got underway at a virtual history night that was held on January 8, 2022, as part of TBI’s ongoing Adult Education program. With Jewish residents dating back to about 1905, the community has thrived for more than a century, growing into an extensive and intertwined network of Jewish life and connectivity.

The first Jewish family to arrive in Laconia was that of David Snierson, who is shown on records as residing in Laconia as early as 1905.  Others followed in those early years, including the Sakansky, Rosen, Achber, Bean, Melnick, Alterman and Gozonsky families.  Many of these Eastern European immigrants started off as junk dealers and grew to become some of Laconia’s leading businessmen, merchants, and professionals.  In 1920 the first rabbi was hired by what became known as Sons of Israel, the Orthodox Synagogue.  The rabbi led Shabbat Services in homes and High Holiday Services were held at the Knights of Columbus Hall and other large gathering places.  In 1937 the synagogue was built on Court Street and has remained the home of Temple B’nai Israel to this day.   The original building consisted of a sanctuary, small kitchen and bathroom, and a classroom on the second floor.  A home for the rabbi (who also acted as a shochet – kosher meat slaughterer) was built next door.  The first Torah was donated by founding member Isaac Sakansky.  After the second world war new families moved to Laconia from Boston and New York – families who were not fluent in Hebrew prayer –and the congregation transitioned from Orthodox to Conservative and by the 1960s to Reform services.  The name was changed to Temple B’nai Israel to indicate that it was inclusive of women.

The recent Adult Ed program brought current TBI members together with many descendants of the founders, on Zoom, to share stories and learn about the founding of Temple B’nai Israel and the history of the Jewish community of Laconia.  Rabbi Danson hosted the panel that shared information about their families’ relocation to Laconia and their ancestors’ experiences in the community over the years.  Participants shared anecdotes and memories that sparked discussions which resulted in much laughter and many fond recollections of those who came before.  The close-knit and interconnected relationship that existed amongst the synagogue families emerged as an ongoing theme during the evening.  “It was very moving to hear so many stories that were heard directly from grandparents and even great grandparents. They were stories of imaginative responses to moving to a new land, and of family and community lending a hand to the people who came next,” observed Rabbi Danson. 

One of the important historical documents that is the foundation of the history project is a thesis that was written by Stephanie Melnick Ackerman in 1985 entitled “It’s Nice But It’s Not New York – Early Jewish Community Life in Laconia, New Hampshire.”  Stephanie’s grandfather, Sam Melnick, was a beloved member of the Jewish community of Laconia.  Stephanie’s warm memories of her grandfather and the community led her to interview the living descendants and chronicle their stories in a master’s thesis that can be read here – https://tbinh.org/its-nice-but-its-not-new-york/

Current member Lynn Brody Keltz, a descendant of Dr. Nathan Brody who was a well-respected leader in Laconia and the temple, has created an extensive genealogy of the founding families of the congregation.  Through her research Lynn has created a “Family Tree of Temple B’nai Israel.”  It includes Temple B’nai Israel’s earliest Jewish families and their descendants, as well as documents and images related to their lives.  The tree currently contains approximately 850 individuals and continues to grow.  Read Lynn’s genealogy here- https://tbinh.org/the-family-tree-of-temple-bnai-israel/

The end result of “Digging Our Roots” will be displayed at the Belknap Mill in Laconia this coming September as part of the ongoing “Laconia’s Legacy Series.”  Stories, photographs, and artifacts from the Jewish community are being curated for a month-long historical display at The Mill.  Laconia’s Jewish Heritage Exhibit is the second in this series that began in 2021 with Laconia’s Franco-American Heritage Exhibit.  For more information or to participate, contact Tara Shore, Program & Operations Manager, operations@belknapmill.org, 603-524-8813.

From a seed grew a network of interconnected roots which together form today’s congregation community.  Here’s to the next century of Lakes Region Jewish history yet to made.

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The Lakes Region Business Directory

Exciting news for 2022

A New Way to Advertise Your Business

We are proud to present a brand-new digital version of our TBI sponsor book

The features of The TBI Lakes Region Business Directory include:

  • Full color
  • 8” x 10” full page ads
  • Active links within your ad to a special promotion or back to your website
  • Updateable ads for promotions, coupons, or special events
  • Available 24/7 365 days a year on the TBI website
  • Monthly emails to our growing database of local residences in the Lakes Region referencing the guide
  • Back of stage video presentation indexing through the guide at both We Care concerts
  • Lakes Region Business Directory banners with QR codes in the lobby for each We Care concert
  • Additional emails during TBI events- The NH Jewish Food festival and two We Care concerts
  • A searchable table of contents that will bring the reader right to your advertisement
  • Front Page full-page rotation – limited availability
  • Inside front cover full-page rotation- limited availability
  • Costs remain at 2019 rates while ad sizes have doubled

For more information or to place an ad – email us at tbibizdirectory@gmail.com

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The Salvation Army Lunch Program

Practicing Tikkun Olam in the Lakes Region

Temple B’nai Israel takes pride in giving members the opportunity to not only “be” Jewish, but to “do” Jewish through our Social Action Committee and the Salvation Army “Friendly Kitchen” lunch program that helps those facing food insecurity for themselves and their families.  The staff of the Salvation Army and/or volunteers prepare lunch in their kitchen six days a week.  The lunch program is supported by many Lakes Region religious and civic organizations who provide and serve a hot lunch about once a month.   Generally, there are 30-40 people served, however, during the pandemic as the need increased, lunches were packed in to-go containers for the clients to take with them.  Last month they returned to serving sit-down meals.  If there is anything not consumed at lunch, it is served at the Carey House, a residential home run by the Salvation Army, that evening.

The TBI Social Action Committee Salvation Army lunch program is currently co-chaired by Rhoda Goodman and Lois Kessin and all the food is supplied by the temple.  Rhoda and Lois shop, prepare, and deliver nutritious and tasty meals once a month.  A meal generally consists of a protein with vegetables and rice or other carbohydrate and varies from month to month.  There are the standards like Shepherd’s pie, baked chicken, spaghetti and meat sauce, Sloppy Joes, a hearty chicken, vegetable, and rice stew, and during the summer, tuna fish and egg salad sandwiches.  Desserts are always included – fruit, brownies, or other homemade baked goods from temple volunteers. 

Sometimes an unexpected menu opportunity pops up such as a blintze souffle that was prepared with the homemade blintzes from the Jewish Food Festival.  A salad was added to round out the meal.   Last month in celebration of Sukkot, the religious school students, teachers, parents, and Rabbi Dan Danson went to glean vegetables in the fields at Greens and Beans Farm in Gilford as part of a Tikkun Olam project and learning experience.   The gleanings were cooked with chicken into a hearty vegetable and chicken soup that will be served with salad, corn muffins and brownies for dessert.

Rhoda Goodman has been an integral part of the lunch program for more than three years and enjoys the process and the results.  “It is our pleasure to be involved with providing meals for those in need.  The clients are very grateful to TBI.  They always thank us in their prayers before the meal and as they are served.” 

Temple B’nai Israel looks forward to the post-pandemic days when TBI volunteers can return to serving the meals that are prepared in the TBI kitchen to the Salvation Army clients.  A meal is more than just food, it’s community for a senior that would otherwise be shut-in or a sense of normalcy for a family that lost their home.  TBI is proud to help The Salvation Army in its mission to fill empty stomachs and empty hearts.

WE ARE LOOKING FOR VOLUNTEERS TO HELP BAKE DESSERTS – EMAIL – INFO@TBINH.ORG PUT SALVATION ARMY IN THE SUBJECT LINE.

We Care Concert

The Jersey Tenors in Concert to benefit Interlakes Community Caregivers at the Inter-Lakes Community Auditorium

Click Here for more information

Adult Education February 12

Youth Groups in Israel Presented by Ra’anan DeHaas, our Israeli Shaliach

We welcome back Ra’anan to tell us about the uniqueness of Israeli Youth Groups and how they took part in the founding of Israel.