The success of religious institutions can oftentimes be traced back to the great leaders of that institution. At Temple Gates of Prayer, for example, many members would agree that it is thanks to Rabbi Thaler’s leadership that the temple has been able to maintain such a unified congregation. The temple’s members are pleased with the way that Rabbi Thaler leads the congregation and consider themselves lucky for having the rabbi be a part of the temple for so many years. Despite the fact that the temple has decreased in membership greatly during the thirty-one years that Rabbi Thaler has been at the temple, he is able to keep the congregation formed as an intimate, cohesive community. Upon observing the services at the Temple Gates of Prayer, it is easy to see this sense of intimacy within the community.
The diminishing Jewish population in Flushing has led to an increased intimate connection within the members of the congregation of the Temple Gates of Prayer. As a result, the services are more personal and easy to relate to. To remain prevalent within the community the members of the congregation are left to assume more responsibilities in hopes to provide a steady foundation for future generations. All members, especially women, are encouraged to take up higher administrative positions and take charge. However, with a decrease in membership, resources are limited, and many end up working post-retirement or with a longer tenure. This religious institution grasps the notion that adapting to the ever-changing surroundings is the only means of survival. Through the reconsideration of budget and services available, the congregation has focused on the collective necessities of the members in order to continue their commitment and participation. Temple Gates of Prayer is also tolerant of other ethnicities and embraces those who convert to their tradition. For example, about four or five converts typically attend the temple’s services every week.
By responding to the needs of its members, the temple has been extremely successful in retaining its members. Some ways in which the temple does this is through events that appeal to everyone within the congregation. One such event is the ethnic Shabbat dinners that the temple holds, which blend eating Jewish foods from a particular country with learning about the lives and traditions of the Jews of that country. The temple also holds community programs, such as a Zumba fitness class.
In addition to these things, many cantors upon leaving Temple Gates of Prayer have gone on to become very famous cantors. An example of this is cantor Jack Mendelson who had a documentary made about him called A Cantor’s Tale. Here’s a clip from the documentary:
Although Temple Gates of Prayer has a relatively small membership compared to other congregations, the temple always sees a very high turnout for its events. By comparison, other larger temples with close to a thousand members usually see lower turnouts for their events. Because of high participation at Temple Gates of Prayer, members are able to work together towards ensuring a stable future for the temple. This future depends heavily on the children of current members, who will be the ones to participate in and run the temple in the future. The congregation offers numerous services to the children of current members, such as paying the tuition for the youth that attend Jewish schools. The congregation also funds their trips to Israel. Temple Gates of Prayer bears in mind all children, however, and does not forget children with special needs. Currently, Temple Gates of Prayer is the only temple that has a religious school for children with special needs.
Despite its openness, the congregation is most known for being concentrated within its own religious branch. It remains spiritually aloof within its own domain, even though it is physically connected to the greater community. It’s view on the greater community is through the deeds that benefit the congregation, as well as their families abroad in Israel.