About Us

About Temple Israel

Temple Israel is an egalitarian, multi-racial, full-service Conservative synagogue with morning and evening minyans, traditional worship on Shabbat and on all festival days. Affiliated with the Union for Conservative Judaism, Temple Israel was begun in 1952 and has special ties to Tidewater’s military life.

We welcome both those seeking a traditional worship experience in a warm community atmosphere and those seeking to learn about Judaism as a faith of choice. All people of good will are welcome. Jewish men and women ages 13 and up count as part of our minyan. Non-Jews are honored guests.  To underscore our support for the institution of marriage, couples are invited to come to the pulpit together. When one member of the couple is Jewish and the other is gentile, the Jewish partner recites the blessings or performs the ritual action, supported by presence of their life partner. We go the extra mile to find creative ways to help families find their voice. Additionally, two of our regular Sabbath prayers are universal in scope and all are welcome to lead these, which are the prayer for our country and the prayer for peace.

Shabbat services are led by Rabbi Michael Panitz in community with Torah readers and prayer leaders young and old. Cantor Lawrence Tiger davens High Holy Days and assists with services and special musical programs throughout the year.

Both traditional and innovative, Temple Israel has a variety of less formal worship options throughout the year.

Youth worship is provided in two forms: Alef and Junior Congregation meets on Shabbat morning twice monthly led by Sheila Panitz. On High Holy Days for children who are learning Hebrew she leads a youth service while younger children have a separate Alef Congregation of lively worship and celebration.

An active Sisterhood runs the Temple’s Judaica and Gift Shop and provides ongoing social and educational programs.

Men’s Club activities include building sukkot throughout the community and hosting cookouts, speaker breakfasts, out-reach programs and twice-yearly blood drive.

The Temple library includes hundreds of reference works and 3000 books that circulate. Frequently changing displays from

The Solberg Antiquities Collection of scores of ancient Near Eastern artifacts are provided by a congregant. The congregation has both women’s and men’s chevrah kaddishah groups providing a final care for those who have died and are awaiting burial. A Russian Culture Center, created in conjunction with the Jewish Family Service, provides Russian TV, internet hookup, and a library of Russian books and videos for New Americans. Temple Israel also hosts an annual Russian Victory Day Celebration on the Sunday nearest May 10th.

Family during Bar Mitzvah | About usEducation is a primary focus for Rabbi Michael Panitz. With a Ph.D in history, he regularly teaches at area universities, in addition to teaching 7th grade and older in the Sunday religious school and weekly adult courses in Bible, Midrash, and basic Judaism; monthly evening classes on various subjects; monthly mid-day lectures for the Sisterhood; an summer “mini-mester” and a winter lecture series at KBH (The Kempsville Conservative Synagogue) as part of a partnership in programming. The Melton Mini-School, and the monthly Nexus series on interfaith understanding and local television and radio venues also benefit from his regular leadership.

Sunday’s religious school is for children aged 3 through high school. Staffed by professional teacher, the school has technological assets unlike any other shul in the region. Having our own kiln, our children create Judaica worth keeping and using. Now being wired for WiFi, classes can access Google-Earth to map the route of the Moses or of their own ancestors, and Skype with Jews far away. Establishing a Fiber Arts program with various looms, students can gain respect for their worthy craftsman ancestors as they make a Challah cover to last a life time and weave a Torah Binder for the day of Bat mitzvah. Youngest children enjoy preparing for holidays and learn about, right behavior and Israel. Then grades 3 through 6 follow Jewish history from Torah to Prophets and Writing to The Rabbinic Era to The Diaspora. Older students study Jewish American History, The Life Cycle and Issues of Today. Award-winning hands-on programs include raising barley used in counting the Omer and “Backyard Archeology” involving the Solberg Antiquities Collection.

Wednesday afternoon Hebrew classes are offered through the United Hebrew School with a review hour as part of Sunday class time. Bar and Bat Mitzvah students, young and old, study individually with Rabbi Panitz and Education Director Kathryn Morton, who has them learn to play the trope melodies on a keyboard to see, hear, feel and really own the system of melodies.

Temple Israel is a singing congregation of warm, involved people welcoming newcomers of all faiths and races who seek to learn more about Judaism and to join us in worship, celebrations and good works.