In March 1889, a group of 5 women formed the Ladies Hebrew Benevolent Society. This group would go by many names and permutations: Ladies Hebrew Benevolent Society (1889-1891); Ladies Social Circle (1894-1911); Jewish Ladies Social Circle (1911-1917); Ladies of Sinai Congregation (1917-1918); Sinai Temple Sisterhood (1918-1994); and Women of Sinai (1994-1998).
The early Ladies Social Circle was a group of about 20 women ranging in age from their early 20s to 80s who met monthly to conduct business, collect dues, and visit with one another. The Ladies Social Circle saw to the upkeep of the cemetery; adopted a room at Julia Burham Hospital providing new paint, furnishings, and supplies in return for naming rights of the room; and hosted socials for their congregation and for Jewish faculty and students at the University of Illinois. When the children’s Sunday School was established on April 2, 1905, the Ladies Social Circle assumed responsibility for its operation.
In March 1918, the group voted to form a “Ladies Auxiliary.” This group would be open to all Jewish women in Champaign and Urbana regardless of whether their husbands were members of Sinai Temple. Soon thereafter, the “Auxiliary” was renamed the Sinai Temple Sisterhood and the Ladies Social Circle delegated its responsibilities for Sunday School and all other projects to the newer organization.
The Sisterhood, just like the Ladies Social Circle before it, relied on fundraising to support the religious school and Temple hosting teas, luncheons, bazaars, and rummage sales. They also supported Templeand community activities including the Annual Seder, the Confirmation Class Trip, Meals on Wheels, and Reading to the Blind. On May 17, 1998, the Sisterhood was officially disbanded.