by Nancy Coren, Susan Bass and Alan Polsky
When Hyman Polsky was born in 1917, in Lincoln, Nebraska, the now century old Tifereth Israel Synagogue, was only four years old. The new congregation became a very important place for young Hyman. He became a Bar Mitzvah at Tifereth Israel, was an active member of AZA, and joined the congregation on his own as a young adult. After Hyman returned from five and half years of serving in the army during World War II, he met his future bride, Betty Rosenberg of York, Nebraska, at a Yom Kippur “break-the-fast” Synagogue dinner/dance. The couple spent the next 64 years of their married life freely contributing their time and energy supporting the Synagogue and its activities.
During their lifetimes, Hyman and Betty assumed numerous leadership roles at Tifereth Israel. Hyman served as president of the congregation and B’nai Brith. Betty served as president of the Sisterhood group and Hadassah. Both served multiple times as the chair of the Lincoln Jewish Federation. They were deeply devoted to the continued presence of Conservative Judaism in Lincoln.
Hyman passed away in July 2013, and Betty followed just six months later. When Betty and Hyman’s children, Alan Polsky of Los Angeles and Susan Bass of Cleveland, Ohio, chose to honor the memory of their parents’ lives, contributing to Tifereth Israel’s future was a natural choice. Identifying a need at the synagogue that could be addressed by the contribution was not difficult. Betty and Hyman had regularly attended Shabbat services, but as they got older, they and their contemporaries found that it was physically harder to negotiate the steps leading from the congregants’ seats up to the bima to participate in services. With this in mind, using the Polsky contribution as a way to enhance the ease of use of the sanctuary for all congregants became the goal — and then was met.
The sanctuary’s enhancement centered on the creation of a beautiful amud (Torah reading table), which was custom built by a local craftsman, Dave Hergenrader of Classic Wood. To accommodate the amud, a grouping of congregant seats located in front of the elevated bima were removed and replaced by the amud. As a result, individuals in wheelchairs or using walkers no longer had to physically climb stairs to the bima in order to have full access to the Torah or recite an aliyah.
The redesign of the sanctuary was completed before High Holiday services this past fall. The advantage of the change was immediately and happily realized. Participation in the service by all congregants was no longer hindered by physical challenges. People had only to come to the amud to join in the readings and prayers. The sense of inclusiveness for all members has positively enhanced the sense of community for the congregation. The amud’s design also blended with other sanctuary décor as the facing of the new table includes a carved menorah with its roots in the heartland– the same design as found on a wall-hanging within the sanctuary that was donated by the Polsky family years ago.
With the creation of the amud, the Hyman and Betty Polsky contribution lovingly promotes participation in services for all congregants. It is truly a lasting and wonderful legacy from a couple who devoted so much to life at Tifereth Israel Synagogue.