About Beth El- Sort of
This is the page on which we are supposed to tell you all about Beth El. We are supposed to say that our community is “vibrant,” “heimish,” and “warm and welcoming.” Beth El is caring. It serves a diverse, engaged population and is a traditional, Conservative, egalitarian community founded on the values of Torah, Prayer and Acts of Kindness.
Yada, yada, yada.
These are pretty much the same things every synagogue website says. Not only are these descriptions tired, how do you know they are true? If you really want to learn about a shul, forget the canned website “about us” page. Ask some people what they think. After all, Jews are not shy about sharing their opinions…
I am third generation Beth El so I guess I am biased. My grandparents helped found the congregation on the North Side. I was married here. I raised my kids in the pre-school and watched them celebrat their b’nai mitzvah at Beth El. Those were good years. Not only because the programs were good but because we made life-long friends. Now I’m what they call an “empty nester.” I am in a study group. I help with some volunteer activities and I’ve been learning with our shul nurse how to care for my aging mother. But my favorite thing is Shabbat when the community gathers. I love the cantor’s voice and rabbis sermons and walking around the hallways filled with kids. Put simply, Beth El is home. –Diane W
Purim at Beth El is incredible! Growing up, I thought it was just a Jewish version of Halloween. But at Beth El, they do this shpiel that is seriously, right off of Off-Broadway. Not just kids but adults have a great time at the megillah reading and wine tasting party. And it’s true what they say, Beth El’s Purim carnival is the best in town. –Mark T
I am not Jewish but I know where Beth El is. In fact, I have probably been to Beth El more this year than to my own church! They have a great speaker series- politicians like Hillary Clinton and George Bush, change-agents such as Gloria Steinem and Michael Pollan, and heroes including the Captain Phillips. Not only are the events great but proceeds go to worthy causes like sponsoring a MN National Guard Unit. We are lucky to have Beth El in the Twin Cities. –Kathryn G
I am currently a freshman at U Wisconsin (Go Badgers!). I am teaching in the local synagogue to help pay for school, am helping start up the AIPAC chapter on campus and am travelling with Hillel on an alternative Spring break to do tikkun olam work in Central America. So I guess you could say I am pretty involved “Jewishly.” All these things are really thanks to Beth El. I got to Madison knowing a bunch of kids thanks to my involvement in USY. I can teach Torah reading and tefilot because of what I learned in TaRBuT (Beth El’s b’nai mitzvah training program). And I am planning on spending a year in Israel because of the Jewish identity that was instilled in me since my early years at the Aleph Pre-School. Thank you Beth El- not just for the Hanukkah care package you sent- but for teaching me what it means to be a Jew. –Ben S
I have just started coming to Beth El which is kinda bizarre because I don’t consider myself religious. I found the young adult group on Facebook and started attending a class about Jewish views on sex that the rabbi taught at a local coffee shop. Since then, I’ve been coming to Shabbos dinners and am now volunteering to help the synagogue food drive. My girlfriend isn’t Jewish but she has been welcomed by the group. I guess you might say that thanks to Beth El, I am giving Judaism a try as an adult. –Tom B
Ok. Admittedly, we chose the letters that make us look good. We didn’t include the kvetches. But we can be honest about our blemishes too. We are an imperfect community. We have a bunch of Torah study classes but would love to see more people learning. We have a daily minyan but need to see more people davening. We have a caring committee which needs more active participants. We are worried about how to balance our budget, how to make Jewish tradition meaningful and accessible and how to keep our kids, the next generation engaged. These are not simple challenges.
If we are really honest then, the best we can say is that Beth El is a striving community. We have more mitzvot to do. There is more we can achieve.
We are told in the Torah, “k’doshim t’hiyu you shall be holy.” That is our charge and our challenge- to build a kehilah k’dosha, a holy community. So we are working at it with all of our joy, our passion, our doubts, our faith, our fun, our hearts and our hands. And with your help, we just might succeed in becoming what our name calls upon us to be, “Beit El,” a house where God dwells.