Where We Pray: Progressive and modern, Rockdale Temple has a 190-year history of firsts

The Tri-State is rich in the number and variety of houses of worship. In our weekly feature, WCPO shines the spotlight on where we pray.

Rockdale Temple (K. K. Bene Israel)

Address: 8501 Ridge Road, Amberley Village
Denomination: Jewish (Reform)
Top Clergy: Senior Rabbi Sigma Faye Coran, Rabbi Meredith Kahan
Size of Congregation: 420 families
Affiliation: Union for Reform Judaism

Core beliefs

• To promote a more just, righteous and compassionate world

• To apply the teachings of Judaism to the values and conduct of the individual, family and society in which we live.

Rockdale Temple is a progressive and modern congregation with several "firsts" to its credit. Rockdale was the first Jewish congregation west of the Alleghenies and a leader in creation of Reform Judaism, as well as the first in Cincinnati to elect a female senior rabbi.

Today,  Rockdale takes pride in its diverse and welcoming congregation. Members come from throughout Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, and include families with children, interfaith couples, LGBTs and converts from other religions. Average age of members is about 50.

“Rockdale is a family which celebrates together and also helps share burdens, " said Senior Rabbi Sigma Faye Coran. "I am constantly inspired by our members even as we seek to instill a sense of responsibility on the path to God."

"I think that what Rockdale offers is relationships that people form with each other and the clergy," said the rabbi. She referred specifically to the depth of learning that clergy and members do together, for example, studying the Torah every week.

Longtime congregant Aaron Herzig, 42, a Taft Stettinius & Hollister commercial litigation lawyer, said the synagogue was his home temple when he was growing up in Wyoming. Although he married a Catholic woman, the pair chose to raise their children in the Jewish faith and returned to Rockdale because it had a special place in Herzig's life. Also, the couple found Rabbi Coran's approach welcoming to interfaith couples.

Herzig said Rockdale is open to how people want to practice Judaism, whether cultural or religious, in a responsive and comforting community. The temple is part of Reform Judaism that is not static: people are connected to the community and want to make the world a better place.

Just as people shop for homes, they seek out houses of worship. "Rockdale is a good choice for people who want a progressive and modern congregation," Herzig said.

As membership chair, he cites a strong educational program for children and a diverse community, home to several LGBT members and people who have converted to Judaism. Rockdale has an active religious school called Kehal Kodesh (holy congregation) as well as busy youth groups.

Rockdale celebrated its 190th anniversary this year with a series of events.
Over 500 people attended the concert of Dave Brubeck’s “Gates of Justice” performance in January.
In February, Rockdale hosted a special service, with Rabbi Gary P. Zola, executive director of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion/Cincinnati, as guest speaker. A celebratory gala was held the following evening at the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza. In addition, Cantor Bruce L. Ruben, Ph.D., director of the Debbie Friedman School of Sacred Music at HUC-JIR/New York was scholar-in-residence in April.

The congregation also celebrated the tenth anniversary of Senior Rabbi Coran in June. When she arrived at Rockdale Temple in 2004, she was the first female senior rabbi elected to serve a congregation in Cincinnati.

Community Outreach

• In cooperation with Adath Israel synagogue, Rockdale participates in the Interfaith Hospitality Network.

• Members regularly serve at the Over-the-Rhine Kitchen, at Liberty and Vine streets.
• The annual day of service, known as Mitzvahpalooza

Founded in 1824, Rockdale was the first Jewish congregation west of the Alleghenies. ‎It was instrumental in founding the Union for Reform Judaism. In addition, Rockdale also hosted the first classes of Hebrew Union College, the first American seminary to ordain rabbis.

According to its website, Rockdale Temple was founded by a small group of Jews who had settled in Cincinnati, then a frontier town. The leaders began raising money for a building, and by 1836, the first home was located at Sixth and Broadway in downtown Cincinnati. The congregation later moved, first to Eighth and Mound streets, then to Rockdale and Harvey avenues and, in 1969, to the present location on Ridge Road in Amberley Village.


•  6:15 p.m. Friday

•  9:15 a.m. Saturday




(Photos provided by Rockdale Temple and Aaron Herzig)

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