In 2003, when Sandra and Donald Armstrong made their “dream” move from Ridgewood, New Jersey, to Hawaii, they left behind a thriving conservative Jewish community that they had helped build over 15 years. In planning their future in Hawaii, “it was very important that there be a conservative synagogue,” says Sandra RC’76.

The Armstrongs joined Congregation Sof Ma’arav in Honolulu, and they have spent another 15 years helping the island’s conservative Jewish population flourish. Assuming leadership roles at the temple—both have served as its president—the Armstrongs have increased adult and child education, expanded local outreach efforts, and formed a welcoming committee to greet new families. Sof Ma’arav’s membership has more than doubled, jumping from 40 families in 2003 to nearly 100 today. 

Sandra and Donald RC’75, who was Presbyterian at the time, were warmly welcomed as newcomers in Ridgewood’s conservative Jewish congregation. Their growing spirituality as a couple—and Donald’s eventual conversion—was chronicled in Sandra’s 2014 self-published memoir, A Jewish Girl and a Not-So-Jewish Boy: A Memoir from New Jersey to Hawaii.

Donald is especially proud of their success in expanding Oahu’s Jewish burial space. Traditionally, Jews are buried apart from the deceased of different faiths. For years, Donald says, “there was no Jewish burial space available on the island.” In 2011, using personal funds, he purchased burial rights within Hawaiian Memorial Park Cemetery to create Abraham’s Garden for Jews of all denominations. 

“It’s just an unbelievable opportunity to be Jewish here,” says Sandra of their Oahu life. “We are grateful to have found this community.”