History and Vision

Vision

Congregation Beth El is a Conservative synagogue that brings innovation and creativity to Jewish traditions. Beth El provides multiple pathways for its members to enjoy a sense of community, engage with Judaism, and transform their lives through Torah, worship (avodah), and acts of loving kindness (gemilut chasadim). We aspire to be a synagogue whose members—guided by Judaism—pray, learn, celebrate, and find comfort together as a community, discover meaning and purpose in their lives, and improve the world.

  • Embrace everyone …. we are egalitarian, inclusive, and multigenerational, we encourage respect and appreciation for all members of all ages and abilities, and we provide an accessible gateway to synagogue life.
  • Merge tradition and creative spirit …. we provide multiple pathways to spirituality and bring both respect (kavod) and creativity to Jewish traditions, observance, and rituals.
  • Create community …. we promote a sense of intimacy and community by nurturing a warm, caring, welcoming environment and by connecting members to one another in small synagogue groups and in synagogue-wide events.
  • Take life-long Jewish learning seriously …. we provide many opportunities for members, regardless of their level of knowledge, to study and appreciate the wisdom and relevance of Judaism.
  • Respond to lifetime needs …. we provide guidance, comfort, and support to deal with life’s complexities and challenges, and we join in celebrating member’s achievements and life cycle events.
  • Nurture the Jewish identity of our children …. we provide our children with appreciation of the joy and relevance of Judaism and with a sense of belonging to the Jewish people.
  • Empower its members …. we count on our members, in partnership with clergy and staff, to contribute their talents, resources, and passions toward ensuring the vitality of the synagogue community.
  • Accept responsibility for repairing the world (tikkun olam) …. we provide opportunities for participation in social action, encourage involvement and assumption of leadership in the Jewish and secular communities, and nurture love and support for Israel.

Beth El’s History

Bimah-1962-to-1963

Bimah 1962 to 1963

Since its founding in 1951, Congregation Beth El has contributed to the vitality of Jewish life in Montgomery County, Maryland. Starting with just 16 families and the dedication and determination of Rabbi Samuel Scolnic z”l, Beth El has now grown to be home to 1,100 families, a robust Religious School, and a thriving cooperative Preschool.

Beth El’s growth reflects the strengths of the Conservative Jewish Movement. We see a need for change and continuity to coexist, fostering innovation and creativity while adhering to the essence of our tradition. One central tenet is inclusion and we have welcomed full participation and leadership by women in all facets of religious observance and synagogue governance. Our older members stay with us, and the “buzz” around Beth El helps attract new members. We welcome intermarried couples and are committed to supporting members with physical or mental health challenges.

We have expanded our facilities to accommodate our membership, highlighted by the addition of our beautiful, Jerusalem stone and stain glass chapel and adjacent social hall in 2004 and the refurbishing and modernization of our sanctuary in the summer of 2014.

Over the years, our Religious School has grown to over 500 students, from kindergarten through high school. We also have a renowned cooperative preschool (the only Jewish co-op in the Washington area) with over 100 children from two to four years of age.

The increased size of our congregation and the amazing wealth of activities offered by our different auxiliaries, committees, and interest groups resulted in the need to enlarge our facility. In 2006, we completed a major addition to our building that provides us with new worship, learning, and meeting spaces.

Our Philosophy

We are an innovative, egalitarian, very participatory synagogue and we approach all of Jewish life with creativity. Long ago we established a tradition of egalitarianism, in advance of much of the Conservative movement. We see the value of maximum participation in all aspects of our worship and governance.

Our support of Israel is strong and have worked to provide support, especially in times of crisis. Twice we led campaigns raising more than $1 million each time.

Our commitment to building community is evident in our many engaging activities including the annual Purim Megillah Madness, one of the most engaging events of the year. These and many other Beth El activities bring together, in their planning and implementation, the talents, creativity, and commitment of a myriad of members from across the community. Each captures the thread of what we are, and we continue to build on that as we move forward.