Beth El Congregation began in 1859 when four Jewish families settled in Rockingham County.
Eight years later, regularly scheduled religious services began in a rented room. Our first Torah (which is still in use!) was purchased in 1870. Land for the Jewish cemetery was acquired in 1876, and the following year Hebrew Friendship Congregation was chartered. On July 4, 1891, the cornerstone was laid for the first synagogue in the area.
The synagogue in downtown Harrisonburg was our home for more than 70 years, until 1964, when the cornerstone was laid for our present Temple. The name of the Congregation was changed from Hebrew Friendship to Beth El, House of God.
The purpose of this reform congregation shall be to worship God in accordance with the faith of Judaism; to cultivate a love and understanding of the Jewish heritage; to strengthen the ties within the Jewish community; to strengthen the bonds of loyalty with the Jewish people everywhere; to bring nearer the Dominion of God on earth through an emphasis on the principles of righteousness and harmony in society at large, and to engage in social action projects in pursuit of social justice and Tikkun Olam (repair of both the human and nonhuman components of the world).
Introduction to Hebrew Class (free!)
5 Classes on Wednesday Evening, 6:30-9:30pm
Nov. 16, Nov. 30, Dec. 7, Dec. 14, & Dec. 21.
Contact Rabbi Joe by telephone (925-272-8563) or email.
Death is part of life. Break the taboo - come join the conversation to talk about death.
Next mtg. is Nov 2, 7-9pm in Staunton Temple House of Israel.
Community Awareness Shabbat
Friday November 11, 2016 @ 7:30pm
We invite all who are curious or interested to our Community Awareness Shabbat. Come observe a Jewish Shabbat (Sabbath) service. We will offer brief explanations during the service, and an opportunity to ask questions following. This is an educational opportunity: no proselytizing or evangelizing will occur. Good for those who are curious or interested. Great for Comparative Religion or World Religion Classes! The service will include readings chanted from the Torah (5 books of Moses) and Haftarah (Prophets), the standard Shabbat service liturgy, and a Devar Torah (sermon).
You are also welcome to join us at the Oneg Shabbat (rejoicing in the Sabbath), a 'fellowship' time with light refreshments following the service, and a chance to talk to congregants and the rabbi. The expected dress is business casual, or whatever you feel is appropriate for your own faith community.
Religious School Begins!
The 2016-17 religious school year began in late August. If you would like more information about registering a child (Kindergarten to Bar/Bat Mitzvah) in the religious school, please contact Dara Hall, co-principal.
Beth El Library
There is a new page on the Temple's website for the Beth El Library. It includes a recently completed catalog for the library. Take a look!
The URJ has awarded Beth El Congregation "Exemplar Congregation" status for a disability-friendly building and processes (dietary considerations at onegs, disability outreach, and the like). The Board put considerable thought and effort into the application after we had been recommended for the award by Rabbi Lynne Landsburg.
1. Consider a donation to the Suitcase Clinic. The Sisterhood will be collecting items for patients and their families for this vital organization. Winter hats & gloves for children and adults, diapers, and feminine products are in particularly short supply. There is a bin in the temple foyer. You may also make a monetary donation thru Beth El.
As the country celebrates Memorial Day 2016, Beth El remembers our veterans who fought in The Civil War, The Spanish/ American War, World War I, World War II, and The Korean War.
Beth El Bazaar & Open-House
Sunday June 5. 12-4. All are invited!
Beth El Congregational Meeting
was held on Israeli Independence Day on May 14. Thanks to the Kramers for a delicious meal, and all attending members for their contributions.
Sisterhood Donation to First Step Women's Shelter. Twelve baskets of necessity were donated to the Shelter in celebration of Mother's Day,
Religious School Hanukkah Celebration!
100+ people attended the Beth El Community Awareness Shabbat (November 6, 2015). Special thanks to Sandy Rose for a wonderful Oneg and Rabbi Joe for leading such a successful and popular outreach event.
Kulanu Speaker: Modreck Maeresera.
Zimbabwe's Lemba Jewish Community.
Sunday November 1st. 3pm.
Modreck Maeresera is a leader of the Lemba Jewish community of Zimbabwe in southern Africa. Thousands of years ago Jews from Israel migrated to southern Africa to become the Lemba ethnic group, who have a genetic link to Middle Eastern Jews and who have continued to observe many familiar Jewish customs and laws passed down through generations of oral tradition.
Community Awareness Shabbat Service
Friday, November 6, 2015. 7:30pm
If you are interested in learning about Harrisonburg's Jewish community and wish to celebrate the arrival of the Sabbath with us, please join us for a Rabbi-led Shabbat service. All visitors from the Community are warmly invited.
Letter to the Congregation from Rabbi Sue.
First-Annual Sisterhood Chili Cook-Off Fundraiser
Sunday, Dec. 7, 1pm
We will stream the Redskin Game, play games, and eat and judge the chili! Also hotdogs, corn bread, and dessert. byob.
Beth El President Ron Ornstein discussing the Rosh Hashanah holiday on the local news.
June 22, 2014.
Beth El conducted our first (that anyone can remember) Genizah - the ritual (and actual) burial of religious articles and books that are no longer in good condition or of any further use.
Memorial Day at the Cemetery
Remembering our Veterans.
Women of Reform Judaism.
Our own Bekah Robles honored as youngest member during a beautiful Havdalah Service at the Mid-Atlantic convention in Richmond.
Pesach Community Seder
Monday, April 14. 6pm
Film Screening + Producer Q+A
Misa's Fugue. March 30, 3pm
The free screening will be followed by a Q & A with the film’s producer, Robert E. Lee High School History Teacher, Jennifer Goss. This event is a joint venture between Congregation Beth El of Harrisonburg VA, the Shenandoah Valley Holocaust EducationProject, and the Foundation for Holocaust Education Projects. For more information, please contact Rabbi Joe Blair at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 540-434-2744. The Foundation can be contacted at 817-781-9229 or email@example.com.
Men's Club Donation of Judaica Books to Montevideo Middle School
Religious School Teacher Appreciation Dinner
Fri. Feb. 21
Tu B'Shevat Seder!
15 January 2014
Kulanu Speaker: Soshannah Nambi
October 6, 2013
Shoshannah Nambi is a member of the 1,000-person Abayudaya Jewish community in Uganda, established in 1919. Shoshannah is a graduate of the Abayudaya-founded Semei Kakungulu High School and the mother of a four-year-old in the Abayudaya pre-school program. With multiple roles in the community, Shoshannah will share personal experiences and down-to-earth knowledge of women's education, health, religion, and family lives. Warm and articulate, Shoshannah will be the first Jewish woman to represent her community on the annual Kulanu-organized tour. A product of the high school that Kulanu helped to create, Shoshannah is among the first Abayudaya women to graduate from university.
Shoshannah has worked with RAIN-UGANDA. Without regard to religion, RAIN conducts HIV testing and cervical and breast cancer screening, crucial services for hundreds of rural women who previously went undiagnosed. Shoshannah works both as an HIV counselor and as RAIN's accountant. Until recently, she also worked as an administrator at the Tobin Health Center in the nearby city of Mbale, an important resource for the treatment of malaria and other diseases of children and adults among the Abayudaya and their Christian and Muslim neighbors.
This event is co-sponsored by JMU Hillel and Trinity Presbyterian Church.
Sunday Sept. 22. Together with the children + teachers of Religious school, we decorated the Sukkah and enjoyed "pizza in the hut"
Haitian holding Beth El Prayerbook
Thank you Dr. Eric Kramer, medical volunteer!
Interfaith Peace Camp visits Beth El
2013 Congregational Picnic
Meet the Author: Robert Gillette
The Virginia Plan: William B. Thalmer and A Rescue from Nazi Germany. Sunday April 14, 2013