In December of 1935, fifty-eight families met at the Milburn Country Club to discuss the possibility of forming a liberal Jewish congregation. Four months later, Central Synagogue of Nassau County was incorporated and Roland Gittlesohn was hired as its first full-time rabbi. Services were held at the Masonic Temple on Lincoln Avenue and Saturday religious school classes were conducted at the Wilson School.
Property on DeMott Avenue was purchased in 1940, but the outbreak of World War II delayed completion of the building of a permanent home until 1947. The congregation held its first High Holy Day services here on September 9, 1947. A small chapel, named in memory of David Hornstein, a congregant killed in the war, was also completed that year. The school building was begun in March of 1952. When all the construction was finished in 1955, an address by Eleanor Roosevelt was part of a year-long celebration at Central.
Renovations and improvements have continued over time. A stage that was part of the auditorium, and which was the scene of several outstanding musical productions, was removed and a reception area was created in its place. Fundraising over many years provided sufficient funds to correct a design oversight and an elevator to all floors in the building was installed. A large basement space was converted into an indoor play area for the pre-kindergarten school, Jacob's Ladder.
Our synagogue established the Long Island Extension Center for Hebrew Union College and Jewish Institute of Religious Education in 1962. Many famous and outstanding speakers have appeared at Central, among them Elie Wiesel, Mark Van Doran, former New York City Mayor John V. Lindsay, Bill Moyers, and, of course, Eleanor Roosevelt. We have welcomed the Rockville Centre clergy of various denominations to our sanctuary. The first Community Interdenominational Thanksgiving service, a Rockville Centre tradition that continues to this day, was held at Central Synagogue in 1969. Rabbi George B. Lieberman, who succeeded Rabbi Gittlesohn in 1954, became the first rabbi to preach from the pulpit of St. Agnes Cathedral at the service of Thanksgiving observance in 1977.
When Rabbi Lieberman retired after twenty-five years of service, Rabbi Lewis Littman succeeded him and served until 1982. Rabbi Paul Joseph followed and in 1988 Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin took his place as our rabbi. 1996 was the first year of Rabbi Julian Cook's leadership. In 2002 Rabbi Marc A. Gruber became the spiritual leader of the congregation and is our current rabbi. Central Synagogue continues to maintain a longtime tradition of leadership and involvement in the community with its highly regarded pre-kindergarten school serving a diverse group of students, through the activities of a vigorous Social Action Committee, and by our clergy's commitment to interfaith dialogue.