Barry Fidelman and Dr. Steve
Tolen pose in front of their shul's
new stained glass window.
Editor and General Manager
South Haven Tribune
ix years ago, Dr. Steve Tolen
came back to South Haven
after spending his career years
as a chiropractor in North Carolina. He
didn't like what he saw. First Hebrew
Congregation, the synagogue where he
had spent memorable times as a youth,
had fallen into disrepair.
"I was pretty upset:' said Tolen,
whose parents were owners of a local
department store. "It had been let go."
So Tolen quietly set about making
some of the repairs himself. Six years
later, one man's efforts have led to an esti-
mated $90,000 worth of improvements at
the 84-year-old synagogue — culminat-
ing in the installation of a new stained
glass window depicting the Star of David.
"He inspired us — he was the
catalyst," said Barry Fidelman, a past
president of the board that oversees the
"My business had closed, and I tried
to get people involved in helping to
improve things:' said Fidelman, whose
family owned a resort during South
Haven's 20th-century heyday as the
Lake Michigan "Catskills" vacation spot
— 175 miles west of Detroit and 125
miles east of Chicago.
"There had been so little done in this
synagogue by our generation, the Baby
Boomers. We had no legacy to leave here."
That began to change, however.
The Orthodox shul's kitchen was
completely renovated and the electrical
system upgraded. Then, Tolen began
working on restoring the synagogue's
hardwood floors. Next came an exten-
sive landscaping project. Local crafts-
men contributed their efforts at cost.
"They did the entire renovation of
our front lawn, and we set up an endow-
ment to maintain Fidelman said. "It
changed the appearance of the synagogue
and inspired us to repair and replace our
Mogen David (Star of David) window."
The new window was dedicated on
July 8. But, work won't stop on maintain-
ing and upgrading the synagogue. "A lot
needs to be done on the outside of the
building',' Tolen said. "We have a lot of
sandstone that needs to be restored."
The shul holds Shabbat services dur-
ing the tourist season. One senior from
West Bloomfield attended one very hot
Saturday morning. On the way back to
where he was staying, he and his adult
son took off their shoes and socks,
rolled up their pant legs, stepped into
the lake and leisurely strolled home a
mile along the coastline.
An hour later, after pausing on a
bench to take in a brisk Lake Michigan
breeze, the father and son enjoyed a
Shabbat lunch with their family.
Those interested in attending the
synagogue or contributing to its renova-
tion and upkeep can call Barry Fidelman
at (616) 820-5623 or send a donation
to the First Hebrew Congregation, 249
Broadway, South Haven, MI 49090. D
JN Senior Copy Editor David Sachs
contributed to this report.
July 19-25, 2012 I 29 Tammuz- 6 Av 5772 I Vol. CXLI, No. 24
Designation Detroit . center
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In his law practice, Ben Reifman
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Ben was raised to be involved.
When he was younger, his dad was
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who took on projects and causes. "I
do enjoy being involved, where it
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HFL counts. I don't know if others
truly understand what an important
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July 19 2012