IT BEGAN AS A DREAM...
It began in July 1967, as a dream. A dream as congregation fellowship as embodied in the teachings of our religion which emphasizes a belief in the sanctity of every individuals commitment to family and a desire to participate in a Jewish community. This dream became the reality of Congregation Beth Shalom. Although the number of our members and the size of our facilities have substantially increased, the spirit which brought the dream of this Jewish community to fruition remains strong and vibrant today.
COMMUNITY OF PEOPLE
Congregation Beth Shalom continues as it began, a community of people who join together on a variety of levels as Jews to pray, to learn, to teach, to work for those less fortunate, to provide a forum to discuss and consider the issues facing Jews both in the community in which we live and throughout the world and simply to enjoy the company of one another in the context of Jewish feeling and celebration. The broad array of programs and activities available at Congregation Beth Shalom is a reflection of the needs and wants of a community comprised of people of all ages both families and individuals which constitutes the Congregation Beth Shalom family. More importantly, that which Congregation Beth Shalom offers is constantly changing to adapt to the ever changing needs of our members and the community of which we are a part.
As one of the largest conservative Synagogues in the North Shore suburbs of Chicago affiliated with United Synagogues of America, the practice of Judaism from that perspective where women are fully accorded equal rights with men is at the very cornerstone of Beth Shalom. Religious services, on a variety of levels, are provided under the guidance and direction of our professional staff which includes our Rabbis and Cantor. Services are held daily, every morning and every evening, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year, both for our congregants and those in the community who simply seek a place to pray.
In order to accommodate families with young children on Shabbat morning, a "Torah for Tots" program is offered for children from the ages of two through five. While children are welcome at Shabbat Services in the main sanctuary at any time, for those families who feel it more appropriate for young children, the alternative service is available under the supervision of staff personnel, and at which, the young children are introduced to Shabbat on a more age specific program basis through story and playtime. On the monthly basis, at Friday night services, a family oriented service is offered where the focal point becomes calling up the children to the Bimah, at which time the Rabbi reads a short story about the Shabbat to the children. This abbreviated service has become a most popular program at Congregation Beth Shalom, for it allows families to introduce their young children to Shabbat programs, all in the context of a family activity. The emphasis on and the concern for meeting the needs of family togetherness in congregation activity extends to the High Holidays as well, where in addition to the services held in the main sanctuary, a parallel service for families where children of all ages may attend is also available for those who opt for that alternative.
Education is another cornerstone at Congregation Beth Shalom. It begins with our Hebrew School which offers a completely integrated program of Jewish study. The curriculum begins with a Sunday School program for youngsters in kindergarten, first and second grades and, when a child enters third grade of elementary school, he or she will enter the Hebrew School where our students can continue their education into adulthood. A comprehensive overview of our rich heritage is at the foundation of our educational programs. The children are taught more than history, however; they are also taught our traditions; in essence, what it means to be Jewish.
But the learning process at Beth Shalom is not limited to our children. We believe that learning about our religion and our heritage is a lifelong responsibility. In furtherance of that belief, a full program of education for the adult member is offered, both on a formal and informal basis. Education at Congregation Beth Shalom means growth, and growth is never ending. For those who are interested, almost any topic of religious or secular concern will ultimately be explored. All that is needed is the interest and the willingness to participate. Through the leadership of our professional staff, including our Rabbis, Cantor and Educational Director, with the assistance of the lay members of the Congregation, there are a vast array of educational programs available. For example, we have a Hebrew Literacy program which provides a foundation, even for those who cannot read Hebrew portions of Sabbath services. Classes are offered in Torah reading, Talmud, Yiddish, conversational Hebrew, Jewish history and Bible, just to name a few. In addition, each year Beth Shalom hosts a scholar in residence program, where an intensive weekend study and discussion on issues facing the Jewish community at large is led by a speaker of national, and sometimes, international renown.
A HOME FOR FELLOWSHIP AND SOCIAL INTERACTION
Another most important function of Congregation Beth Shalom is that it is the house of assembly for the Jewish community in our area. Part of this is a result of the physical facility at Congregation Beth Shalom, the beauty of its main sanctuary, its youth lounge, its extensive library of Judaica, its Judaic Museum, its Judaica Shop and one of the largest kosher kitchens in the Chicago are capable of accommodating any function.
More importantly however, it is a house of assembly because of those who assemble there. The backbone of the Congregation in this regard is our Sisterhood and Mens Club. These arms of the Congregation offer our female and our male adult members the opportunity for fellowship and involvement in a wide range of social and charitable activities.
It is the women and the men of these organizations, promoting the spirit of fellowship and camaraderie, which contributes so much to the warmth and friendship at this house of assembly we call Congregation Beth Shalom. But there are others who assemble here as well, and primary among those are the Jewish children in our community.
THE HERITAGE OF OUR YOUTH
In addition to all the religious and educational programs we have available for our children, we also have a full youth program for children from fourth grade through the college years under the guidance and supervision of our Youth Director and the able staff of youth advisors. While most of the activities are intended to be of a social nature, even those, taking place in the context of a Jewish house of assembly, add special significance for our children and help to teach the importance of viewing the synagogue as the center of ones life.
BECOME PART OF OUR DREAM
So come. Participate in our dream. We at Congregation Beth Shalom invite you to join us. With a firm foundation in the teachings of our heritage, a willingness for change and the sensitivity to understand, we invite you to become a member of our family. Let us share our dream with you.
40 YEARS OF CBS - Through the Eyes of the Executive Director 1967-1978