At Temple Beth Israel on Longboat Key, the 92Y@TBI program is getting stronger.
The most recent showing, a televised discussion between U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Rubenstein, drew about 300 members and non-members to the Temple on Tuesday, Jan. 21. Prior to the event, 230 people had registered.
“We’re pleasantly surprised,” Rabbi Stephen Sniderman said. “This is better than we thought, more than we thought.”
As part of its community-education efforts, the Temple holds an annual 92Y season in which they show recordings from the 92nd Street Y in New York City, sponsored by the Charlotte P. Graver Fund of the Community Foundation of Sarasota County. Other speakers this year have included U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff and Bari Weiss.
“We’ve sort of become the Jewish community center on Longboat Key,” Temple Vice President Marion Levine said. “This does make people realize what we’re offering and that they don’t have to go off the island.”
On Jan. 21, the line of attendees waiting to be let in stretched out the Temple door on a cold Florida night. Those who got in earlier grouped up with others to socialize and snack on homemade cakes and cookies before settling into their seats. The last 92Y event drew about 200 to the Temple. In the past, these events have brought about 100-150 to the Temple regularly, said executive director Isaac Azerad. He attributes the growth in attendance to an interest in the topics and their current cultural relevance, as well as the addition of a social hour.
“We’ve supplemented showing programs with a social hour,” Azerad said. “It turned out to be a very popular event to socialize when people want some local entertainment that has some value.”
As well as a strong showing of Temple regulars and members, dozens of non-members showed up to listen to the 87-year-old justice share her worldview and hope for the future.
“When programs are selected carefully, we grow in numbers,” Azerad said. “We’re sort of trying to determine the best formula for education. We never advocate for one side as opposed to another, but we educate.”