Temple Emanuel began with a handful of Jewish families living in the Pascack Valley. The first services were held in the Steinman family's kitchen and were conducted in a similar fashion for many years. By 1928 the Jewish population of the Greater Pascack Valley had slowly increased to approximately 25 Jewish families.
Temple Emanuel was incorporated in 1929 under the initiative of Dr. David Goldberg, who later became its first President. Dues at the time were $12.50 for the congregation. The congregation was now too large to hold services in homes, so for quite awhile they used a large facility owned by the Knights of Columbus and other large buildings in Westwood. The first Rabbi was hired on a part-time basis, arriving in town each Thursday and departing on Sunday.
By the early 1930s membership had grown to 30 families and the congregation’s leaders began to think about a new facility. At that time, Mrs. Charles Emanuel donated $5,000 in memory of her late husband; the congregation used this donation to purchase land in Westwood at the corner of St. Nicholas and Westwood Avenue.
The congregation continued to grow throughout the 1930s and 1940s. During this period, Sunday school was established and the congregation employed Rabbi Schwartz as its first full-time Rabbi. By 1950, the congregation’s membership had grown to about 130 families and the original building was expanded.
In the late 1950s the congregation’s membership swelled to nearly 250 families. The leaders of the congregation were faced with the task of providing expanded facilities for worship, Hebrew School, and a host of other Jewish activities; they embarked on a building campaign, which resulted in the completion of the Rose Maron Auditorium in the 1960s.
In 1961, Rabbi Andre Ungar assumed the role of spiritual leader and five years later, Cantor Mark Biddelman was hired. Rabbi Matthew Kanig began what would become his 30 year tenure as principal of the religious school. Under this strong leadership Temple Emanuel attracted members from outside the local area, growing to over 500 families by the late 1970s.
In 1979, the congregation voted to build a new Temple in Hillsdale-Woodcliff Lake. Plans for a new facility were initiated. After several delays and objections by the towns, permission was granted. Prior to final approval, the Alphonsus College property became available and after negotiating with its owners and receiving town approval, Temple Emanuel purchased the site.
Labor Day 1981: Hundreds of families form a long winding procession through the Pascack Valley. Led by the shrill sound of the Shofar, the Torahs are passed from family to family, parents to children, and Temple Emanuel moves from a little brick building in Westwood to a new synagogue on the hill in Woodcliff Lake. Now under the spiritual leadership of Rabbi Benjamin Shull, Temple Emanuel continues to be one of the largest and most welcoming synagogues in the Pascack Valley.