In 1979, men from Temple Emanuel carried Torahs 7 miles to their new house of worship in Andover, handing the holy scrolls from shoulder to shoulder.

At roadsides along the way, families sang, celebrating the watershed moment. The synagogue was moving from Lawrence's Tower Hill where 59 years earlier 30 members founded the temple in a humble farmhouse and barn.

They were mostly immigrants, or the children of immigrants, having arrived to Lawrence from Europe decades earlier seeking a better life on a new continent. 

The move in 1979 from the city to a tranquil rural setting reflected great strides the congregation had made through education and community — both nurtured by the temple, say its members.

Now, in 2020, with a congregation of about 520 members, Temple Emanuel celebrates a century of Jewish religious and social life, a tradition of welcoming newcomers and a willingness to adapt.

Changes this year have been many at the Haggetts Pond Road temple. Services, events and schooling have gone virtual during the coronavirus crisis.

As always, the reform congregation adjusts.

At 6 p.m. on June 20, a Saturday, hundreds of people will turn online to Zoom to celebrate Temple Emanuel's centennial. 

Among the speakers will be Margery Russem, 91. In an interview, she talked of her temple experiences big and small, momentous and mundane – bar and bat mitzvahs, bake sales and games of bridge.

Russem will talk during the ceremony via the video technology, a means of communication that would have been hard to imagine 100 years ago.

She arrived to Temple Emanuel at age 23, a bride to Jerome Russem, whose family owned a clothing store on Essex Street.

His family joined the new synagogue a year after his birth in 1919. The Lowell Street temple would anchor the Russems for generations.

"Our friendships were there, our social lives were there, everything revolved around the temple and its activities," Margery Russem said. "It was our life." 

Marjorie Andresen, 56, was welcomed to the temple 19 years ago after moving from California. She and her husband, Kevin, who is not Jewish, came to Andover for their three children to attend temple preschool and religious school and form friendships.

She has taught preschool there and served on the board. Her husband learned Hebrew with his children at Temple Emanuel.

The temple honors tradition and accepts change, "a melding of past and present," she said. 

Andresen recalls a service more than a decade ago when Rabbi Robert Goldstein called her husband and other interfaith spouses to an elevated space in the synagogue – the bimah – and read from the Torah.

This kind of reading is typically reserved for high holidays and other sacred occasions, and now it honored the spouses' commitment to Judaism. 

Temple Emanuel President Marc Freedman of North Andover says 50 percent of its members are from interfaith couples.

The temple is a reform synagogue and has become more accepting of change over time, Freedman said. It is rich in music programs and diversity, welcoming those of all ethnicities, races and sexual orientations.

The temple, under the longtime guidance of Rabbi Goldstein – originally slated to be retired, but who has agreed to stay on in his 31st year – will continue to celebrate its centennial in 2020 in safe and honorable ways, respecting tradition and accepting change, Freedman said.

Temple Emanuel was more male oriented in 1979 during the Running of the Torahs, when the congregation moved to Andover, said Freedman, who has talked about it with Rabbi Emeritus Harry Roth (1962 to 1990), now living in California.

He said the rabbi became emotional when he recalled how the Torahs arrived to the Andover temple and two ladies held open the doors for them to be carried in.

To the rabbi and Freedman the open doors are symbolic of open arms, of tradition and welcome, temple signatures.


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