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Congregation Beth Israel (Lebanon, Pennsylvania)

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Beth Israel
Basic information
Location 411 South Eighth Street, Lebanon, Pennsylvania, Template:Flag
Geographic coordinates 40°20′00″N 76°25′26″W / 40.333341°N 76.423811°W / 40.333341; -76.423811Coordinates: 40°20′00″N 76°25′26″W / 40.333341°N 76.423811°W / 40.333341; -76.423811
Affiliation Conservative Judaism
Status Active
Leadership Rabbi: Paula Reimers
President: Judith Clark[1]
Architectural description
Architect(s) Percival Goodman[2]
Year completed 1953[3]
Capacity 200[4]

Congregation Beth Israel (Hebrew: בית ישראל‎) is a Conservative synagogue located at 411 South Eighth Street in Lebanon, Pennsylvania.[1] Founded in 1907[5] to provide services for the High Holidays,[4] it was then, and remains today, the only synagogue in the Lebanon area.[6]

The congregation's current building, designed by Percival Goodman to mirror the barns of the surrounding Pennsylvania Dutch community, was dedicated in 1953.[2][3]

Steven M. Glazer was rabbi from 1970 to 1977, and Louis Zivic from 1983 to 2004. Zivic was succeeded by Paula Reimers; as of 2009, Reimers was Beth Israel's rabbi, and Judith Clark was its president.[1]

Early history

Congregation Beth Israel was formed in 1907 by Jews in Lebanon, Pennsylvania who wanted a place to worship on the High Holidays.[4][5] Services were, for a number of years, held in various homes.[5]

In 1915, when the membership reached 25, the congregation purchased a house on the southeast corner of Cumberland and Old Cumberland Streets. Beth Israel moved to the third floor of the Samler Building at Eight and Cumberland Streets in 1918, where they remained for over a decade. By 1929 membership had reached 90, and Beth Israel purchased the empty Emanuel Evangelical Church on Chestnut Street.[5]

The congregation moved to its current location, at 4111 South Eighth Street, in 1953.[3] The building, designed by synagogue architect Percival Goodman, was intended to mirror the surrounding community; as Lebanon was a region heavily populated by Pennsylvania Dutch farmers, he designed the synagogue as "a barn-style white building with Hebrew lettering on the facade."[2]

1970 to 2004

Steven M. Glazer joined the synagogue as rabbi in 1970, upon his graduation from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He served until 1977, when he moved to Temple Beth-El of Birmingham, Alabama. At the time Beth Israel had 120 member families.[7]

Louis Zivic was the congregation's rabbi and principal of the religious school from 1983 to 2004.[8][9] Psychologist Julie Allender, his former wife (they divorced in 1998),[10] described the constraints involved in being a rabbi's wife in a Summer 1983 article in the Women's League of Conservative Judaism's Outlook magazine, and was cited in subsequent studies of rabbi's wives by Shuly Rubin Schwartz.[11][12]

Zivic was a signator of an official protest letter in 2001 to President George W. Bush regarding Faith-Based Initiatives.[13] In December of that year he also argued that the annual Holiday Concert at the local Cedar Crest high school was "too Christian in emphasis"; in response, "school officials decided to no longer ask visitors to stand while the chorus sings the 'Hallelujah Chorus' from 'Handel's 'Messiah'." While an official from the local chapter of the Anti-Defamation League agreed with Zivic, stating the concerts were "pervasively religious" and consisted "almost entirely Christmas carols, most of which were sacred in nature", the Catholic League included the incident in its 2001 Report on Anti-Catholicism.[14]

In 2001, Beth Israel was also the recipient of the Solomon Schechter Gold Award for libraries.[1][15]

Recent events

Zivic was followed as rabbi by Paula Reimers. Reimers had converted from Christianity to Conservative Judaism in 1981,[16] became one of the Jewish Theological Seminary's earliest female graduates in 1990, and subsequently served as rabbi for 13 years at congregations in Los Angeles, Connecticut and Arizona before coming to Beth Israel.[17] In Los Angeles she was the rabbi of Temple Emanu-El in Burbank, California for seven years, but in 2001, shortly after the September 11 attacks, she became embroiled in controversy there. She had invited several Muslims to join temple members in the temple's sukkah, and in order not to offend the guests, had Israeli flags removed from among the sukkah decorations, which in turn offended some of her congregants. Though neither she nor the synagogue's board attributed it to this incident, it, along with her "extremely dovish politics", contributed to her contract not being renewed.[18]

Reimers also serves as the Jewish chaplain at Lebanon Valley College, and runs an interfaith dialogue program at the synagogue.[19] In 2007 she protested the Commonwealth Prayer Breakfast held in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which, in her opinion, "clearly showed state endorsement of one particular religion (Christianity) and one particular sect within that religion (evangelical Protestantism), and even one particular Christian evangelical organization, Capitol Ministries."[20][21]

As of 2009, Congregation Beth Israel, affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism,[22] was the only synagogue in the Lebanon area.[6] The rabbi was Paula Reimers and the president was Judith Clark.[1]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Synagogue website.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Goodman et al. (2001), p. 175.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 A Bit of History, Synagogue website.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 About Us, Synagogue website.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Brener (1979), p. 156.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Beth Israel Today, Synagogue website.
  7. Rabbi Steve's Corner: Bio, About Us, Beth Emeth of Herndon, Virginia website.
  8. Rubin Schwartz (2006), p. 269, footnote 39.
  9. Rabbi Louis Zivic, Heska Amuna of Knoxville, Tennessee website.
  10. Rubin Schwartz (2006), p. 270, footnote 48.
  11. Rubin Schwartz (2006), pp. 179-180.
  12. Rubin Schwartz (2001), p. 261, footnote 1.
  13. "An Open Letter to President Bush and Congress from America's Clergy"PDF (101 KB), Congressman Robert C. "Bobby" Scott, House of Representatives website, May 16, 2001.
  14. Education, 2001 Report on Anti-Catholicism, Catholic League.
  15. The Solomon Schechter Awards Program, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism website.
  16. Goldsmith (2001).
  17. A Bit About Me, From the Study of the Rabbi, Synagogue website.
  18. Gruenbaum Fax (2002).
  19. Meet the Staff, Spiritual Life, Lebanon Valley College website.
  20. "The 2007 Commonwealth Prayer Breakfast", Capitol Ministries: Making disciples for Jesus Christ in state legislatures, JewsOnFirst website.
  21. Reimers (2007).
  22. Affiliated Congregations, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism website.


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