Ken Feinberg interviews Associate Justice Stephen Breyer at Beth El in the ongoing series Conversations with Key American Leaders

Member Ken Feinberg interviews Associate Justice Stephen Breyer at Beth El in the ongoing series Conversations with Key American Leaders.

Congregation Beth El ranks in the top 20 of the nation’s largest conservative synagogues, yet it retains the feel and intimacy of a small shul. We number approximately 1100 families. Every day, our hallowed halls are bustling with activity: parents dropping off their children for pre-school and religious school; parents of college-age and twenty-something young adults catching up on Jewish learning that they had postponed; seniors going to minyan and playing bridge. We interact with each other across generations, lighting up each other’s faces with smiles.

We are diverse in our religious observance, ranging from Shomrei Shabbat and Glatt Kosher to High Holiday Jews. Women play prominent roles in every aspect of Beth El life, ranging from President of the congregation to Torah readers to leading parts of services. Converts to Judaism also are leaders of our congregation, one of whom is a past President. We create welcoming space for our interfaith families where they can experience the richness of Judaism without feeling that they are strangers among us. We treat our gay and lesbian congregants as the Jewish brothers and sisters they are. In short, we are eclectic and egalitarian.

We are active participants in all facets of synagogue life, ranging from lay leadership of special services such as the Early Morning Shabbat and the Kol Haneshama High Holiday and Friday night services to programming such as the Scolnic Adult Education program. Our clergy believe that the key to the growth and vibrancy of Congregation Beth El is empowering its congregants and allowing for innovation. We, as congregants, wholeheartedly embrace that philosophy.

Beyond synagogue life, we heed Hillel’s admonition not to separate from the community. Many of our congregants are connected with or employed by our nation’s leading political, scientific, medical and economic institutions. We have an abundance of lawyers, doctors, accountants and social workers to tend to almost every need. Our congregants assume leadership roles within major Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, the Jewish National Fund and AIPAC. We also volunteer regularly at community shelters, food kitchens and other local organizations assisting those who are suffering in our area. In today’s parlance, we are “linked in.”

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