Saturday, October 6 will mark the first annual Congregation Beth Shalom Sukkot lunch honoring the memories of Norman and Shirley Rosenzweig, founding members of the Conservative synagogue.
In 1956, Norman and Shirley Rosenzweig and their three children, David, Michele and Betty, moved from Omaha, Neb. to Seattle. In the late 1960s, realizing a need for a Conservative Jewish presence in the city’s Northend, the Rosenzweigs and three other families set out to establish a community. Within a couple of years, the nascent community, which offered services and education for children from nursery school to high school in a church, outgrew its space. Today, Congregation Beth Shalom serves 415 families at its location in the Wedgwood neighborhood.
It’s pretty amazing to see how it’s grown,” said David Rosenzweig. “It’s a pretty vibrant crowd.”
David Rosenzweig said that by creating the Sukkot lunches, he and his family could honor their parents and draw attention to the synagogue’s growth. Norman served three terms as the congregation’s president between 1968 and 1985, and also acted as a lay leader, delivering hundreds of sermons. Shirley prepared onegs, kiddushes and bake sale fundraisers, and the couple, David said, perpetually welcomed and hosted newcomers.
David found a testimony of his father’s praising of Shirley’s behind-the-scenes endurance: “She headed the kitchen committee, conducted bake sales, catered dinners, took and made phone calls for me, hosted meetings, and took care of the kids while she and they spent many nights alone while I was off at meetings,” Norman wrote. “One could not point to offices held or awards received, but without her serving there would be neither offices nor awards.”
“My two sisters and I were trying to think of some way to have a memorial for my parents, and we really…wanted to come up with something living,” David said.
“We thought, a good way would be to do this luncheon every Sukkot on Shabbat,” he added, “because they always opened their homes.”
David and his sister, Michele Zukor, live in the Seattle area, and Betty Ziri lives in Montgomery, Ala.
“In those early years we all had to pitch in,” he recalled. “We were all in high school or college.” Today, Beth Shalom serves a vibrant community of young adults, a rarity in synagogue life.
“That kind of spirit of Beth Shalom has stayed,” David said.