Our History

History of Chavurah Beth Shalom
Originally Written By Bjorg Ollendorff, President, updated 2018Chavurah Beth Shalom

In 1991, we established Chavurah Beth Shalom to be a special place – a Reform Chavurah dedicated to excellence in education of contemporary Judaism and a place of friendliness and inclusiveness. Our Chavurah would not have been possible were it not for a great humanitarian, philanthropist and good friend – the late Russ Berrie.

Russ’ vision and steadfast support was the cornerstone of the creation of our Chavurah, and with Angelica Berrie by his side, he was our generous benefactor and greatest champion.

Today, our Chavurah has grown to a membership of 235 families. We are a full-service congregation, whose spiritual leaders take great care in providing individualized and personal support to guide our congregants through all of life’s cycles.

We are very proud of our spiritual leaders. Rabbi Jack Bemporad is an internationally recognized scholar of theology and philosophy. He travels and speaks widely on Jewish-Christian relations as director of the Center for Interreligious Understanding, an organization dedicated to building bridges of cooperation and tolerance among people of all faiths.

Rabbi Bemporad has led several Jewish delegations to the Vatican. He was instrumental in presenting Pope John Paul II with a Holocaust Menorah that now stands permanently on the grounds of the Vatican’s Pontifical North American College, where he also serves as a visiting professor of religion each fall. Rabbi Bemporad’s popular Saturday morning Judaic Studies classes at the Chavurah have been filled for years with eager adult students who are encouraged to learn, debate and question.

Rabbi Nat Benjamin is another cornerstone of our Chavurah. He has a deep love of Jewish music and, with his sweet, elegant voice, he participates in the very popular Cantorial Series. Along with Nadine Posnansky, he also leads our choir whose magnificent voices create an atmosphere of joy and spirituality for our Holiday Services. Rabbi Benjamin is also a dedicated teacher for our Bar and Bat Mitzvah students, offering guidance, patience and friendship so that each child shines on her or her special day.

Cantor Janine Schwarz:

Our religious school, led by Barbara Schneider , numbers 85 children who meet weekly at the Alpine Community . We have an experienced teaching staff that is very committed to Jewish studies. Rabbi Benjamin and his Cantor Janine Schwartz will train 25 Bar and Bat Mitzvah students this year.

We are also introducing several innovative and exciting documentary films and study guides into our religious school curriculum in order to give our students a better knowledge of the State of Israel and our recent Jewish history. Through the films and study guides, it is our hope that they will gain a deeper understanding of the Holocaust, Israel’s War of Independence, the Six Day War and other events and transform this learning into lessons that guide their contemporary lives.

Chavurah Beth Shalom has so much to offer and we invite you to join our friendly community of education, worship and Jewish living.

Email our Chavurah Beth Shalom here