President Marty Siegel and his wife Betty moved to Fort Walton Beach and began their search for a temple at which to worship. Finding nothing that suited their needs, they founded Temple Beth Shalom.
The temple was granted their charter under the reform movement in 1985.
The idea was to create a community, a place not only to worship but to gather with family and celebrate everything from the high holy days to major life milestones.
The congregation is made up of 90 units – families, singles, and associate members such as snowbirds. There are three units in the process of conversion to Judaism. This is usually a result of the non-Jew seeking out the temple, as Judaism does not condone actively seeking out people for the purposes of conversion.
"A lot of people feel they have a responsibility to bring us to Jesus," said Robin Matheson, director of education for the temple. Judaism is not Christianity with the absence of Jesus; it's an ancient religion with its own customs, values and meanings.
For more on this story, see the Sept. 15 issue of Navarre Pres or subscribe online.