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Our Mission

Congregation Beth Shalom is a participatory, egalitarian congregation affiliated with the United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism. We provide a warm gathering place and a caring community for our members. At Congregation Beth Shalom we come together to nourish our spirituality through worship, to increase our understanding through study, to educate our young, and to better our world through acts of loving kindness.

Our goal is to be an inclusive congregation that encourages all members to participate fully in congregation activities, to explore individual and communal growth, and to increase our members’ familiarity with and knowledge of Jewish practice. We are concerned with and responsive to the needs and welfare of our members, the Jewish community at large, and those in need in the general community.

Our History

The story of Congregation Beth Shalom began in 1968 when a small group of families met to create a congregation dedicated to the ideals of Conservative Judaism within the city of Seattle.  Their aim was to build an institution which would serve the spiritual, educational, social and cultural needs of Jews interested in retaining their traditional heritage.

For the first two years, Beth Shalom met in a church school building and provided Jewish education for all grades from nursery school through high school. The temporary location became inadequate before two years had passed, and, in 1970, a building on our current site was rented from the Unitarian Church. In 1980, Rabbi Ira Stone arrived at Beth Shalom, followed by Rabbi Dov Gartenberg in 1988. After a tremendous capital campaign, our shul underwent a major renovation. We rededicated our new building in January, 1998.

In 2005, Rabbi Jill Borodin began as the synagogue’s spiritual leader.  In 2007, Beth Shalom welcomed the opening of a full-time Early Childhood Center. In 2014, following the successful Atid Campaign, Beth Shalom hired its first Assistant Rabbi, Rabbi Adam Rubin.  Our second Assistant Rabbi, Rabbi Paula Rose, began working at Beth Shalom in Summer 2017. Beth Shalom prides itself on being a community of learners offering a variety of formal and informal educational experiences for children, families and adults.

Affiliated with United Synagogue of America, the congregation now has approximately 450 member households.

Congregation Beth Shalom - The Early Years

By Jerry Becker
Edited by Jill Cohen
May 2012

At the November 1967 meeting of the Herzl synagogue board, one subject was moving the shul out of the central district to the east side of Lake Washington. During that discussion, Norm Rozenzweig and I quietly wondered how it could affect our lives and others who lived in Seattle. As the meeting ended, Norm and I found that we both had the same idea: “When are we going to start a new shul in the North End?” (Note: Temple Beth Am, Temple Bnai Torah, and Emmanuel also started around this time.)

Norm and I decided to hold a community meeting to see if there was real interest in starting a Conservative shul in Seattle’s North End. As a result of that meeting, Norm Rosenzweig, Jerry Becker and Ed Stern signed a corporate application and in February 1968, Congregation Beth Shalom Inc. was officially born.

Where did our name come from? After the displeasure of fighting about Herzl’s move east, we wanted a peaceful shul and named it Beth Shalom. It was OUR house of peace. We held a Shavuot service in spring of 1968 and 50-60 people came.

Our first Rosh HaShanah was held at the Knights of Columbus Hall near Northgate. We hired Norman Migdal, formerly cantor at Herzl, for the High Holy Days. He was assisted by CBS volunteers reading the English parts. Herzl, which had over a dozen Torah scrolls, loaned us two Torahs. We purchased siddurim & mahzorim on consignment from Prayer Book Press.
Someone asked how much it was going to cost to hire a cantor for the High Holy Days. We decided to have a fireworks stand to raise the money. But our contract required that we be open for business for seven days a week. In any seven consecutive day span there has to be a Saturday. Wanting to do the Jewishly correct thing, a trusted neighbor solved our dilemna and manned the booth on Saturday. And so we ended up with enough money to be able to pay our cantor for our first High Holy Day services.

Where are we going to meet for Shabbat services every week? Where are we going to hold classes for teaching our children? Where are we going to hold High Holiday services? The committee found the Blessed Sacrament Church and School on Ninth Ave NE at NE 50th Street. We rented the library for services and used their classrooms. 

All of the above makes it sound easy. It was like driving down a road with a lot of curves and potholes. We managed the curves and some of the potholes were easy to navigate while others provided problems to overcome. We did what we had to do to continue down the road.

On any given Sunday it wasn’t unusual to see some of our members outside of the school building next to a table laden with baked goods and a small sign that read ‘Bake Sale.’ It was a sort of a mini fund raising project. Father Masconi encouraged his congregation to support our bake sales. 

At our First Anniversary Dinner at the Edmond Meany Hotel we had 65 member families. The highlight of that dinner was when Dick Brody, a member of Herzl, told us that his father’s shul in Boston was closing and we would be the recipients of one of their Torahs. We were thrilled. Many years later, Beth Shalom received Torahs donated by the Stern family, the Bierman family and the Becker family. (We returned the original Torahs Herzl loaned us.)

In addition to the library and classrooms, the church building had a gymnasium. The gym also contained a kitchen, and that gave us the idea to have a unique fund raising event --  a public kosher chicken dinner. We got busy and kashered the kitchen, bought kosher chickens from the local kosher food distributor, found a surplus store and bought airline surplus knives, forks, salt, pepper etc. in cellophane wrappers. At least 90% of our members participated in the preparation, serving, or clean-up operations. We even had a gift shop table with merchandise for sale by Betsy Rosenbaum. In the kitchen David Mintz and Ellen Friedman cooked the chicken. Father Mosconi mentioned it to his parishioners at every service, we sent out flyers and we even got some free advertising when the Seattle Times wrote an article about the kosher dinner at the Catholic church. The dinner was a huge success and though we didn’t know it at the time, it was a forerunner to our famous Food Fairs.

A committee looked for another location, one where we could be the only tenant. Holmes Hall across the street from the Unitarian Church on 35th Avenue NE seemed to fit our needs. So after three years at Blessed Sacrament, we changed landlords and hung up our kippot in the fall of 1971.

Our new home felt like a palace to us. The sanctuary was big enough to hold our membership on Rosh Hashanah. There was a room for a social hall, a room we could use for an office, and downstairs were a half dozen classrooms, a kitchen and restrooms. There wasn’t a cross in the whole building. 

Our first Shabbat morning service included an aufruf for Fannie Rosenbaum’s daughter, Alicia. But we needed something to sit on. The building came with a half dozen wooden pews seating six or seven people each. Knowing we needed more seating, we purchased 200 yellow plastic stacking chairs that we could use in any seating configuration we wanted, which was enough for the upcoming High Holiday services. Again our volunteer committees got busy acquiring all the other things we were going to need, such as an Ark to hold our Torah, a reading table, holiday Torah mantle, kippot holder, and bookshelves for our siddurim and mahzorim. The father of CBS member Barbara Grashin graciously surprised us one day when he had someone deliver six brand new chairs for our bima. 
For Shabbat and holiday services other than Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, services were led by members. From the beginning capable members would do whatever was necessary. Normally the current president of CBS would speak with a few words of wisdom. Sometimes when the parasha of the week was relevant, one of our members who was familiar with the parasha would speak (i.e. on Parasha Shoftim, a lawyer gave a drash). 

Jerry Birch, a member of the former Ner Tamid Congregation, joined Beth Shalom and became the regular hazan for us on Shabbat mornings. Moroccan Shimon Dadoun became a CBS member and read the Torah on Shabbat and holidays, alternating with Marvin Stern, Dr. Abe Schweid and Dr. Harold Rosenbaum. If by chance we missed something in the service, Oscar Kauffman was quick to point out the error, which we promptly corrected. An oneg always followed Friday night services and a kiddush always followed Shabbat morning services.

In those days, gas stations sometimes were called “service stations” and true to their name, they gave service. To thank you for patronizing them they gave you something. That is how CBS obtained its silverware. There was a station on Lake City Way that gave away silverware so we asked our members to buy gas at that station to obtain the silverware, which we still use today.

We occasionally had social events where members could get to know others, such as a bowling night or the annual meeting held in the guest room at the Rainier Brewery. After the tour of the brewery we got down to business and elected Carol Starin president. A couple of times we had white elephant auctions where some of the strangest items changed ownership. 

Three years of renting went by and it was time to re-evaluate our future. Is it time to hire a rabbi or buy a building? What were the pro’s and con’s for both? If we hired a rabbi, where would he “hang his tallit?” Doesn’t it make more sense to buy the building we have been renting and then start thinking on how we could afford a rabbi? That’s what we did. Eventually the Holmes Hall building and the five lots it sat on became ours with the bank holding the mortgage. We have enlarged the building twice.

For years our major fund raising project was our Food Fair with almost 100% of our members participating. The sanctuary was remodeled into a restaurant with tables filling the center of the room and food stalls around the rim. People purchased their food cafeteria-style, found a table and sat down to enjoy. We had a bakery where customers could eat or take home breads, pies, cakes and cookies. Meat dishes like corned beef sandwiches, chicken soup with a matzo ball, and kasha varnishkas were served in the main room. Dairy dishes such as blintzes were served in the social hall.

We decided to again have a rabbi for our High Holy Day services and found a rabbinical student through the University of Judaism. Dorothy and I were pleased to give him a room in our home for the two weeks he was in Seattle (when we lived six blocks from the shul). We offered to have a kosher home for him if he returned the following year. He did return, and we have had a kosher home since then.  But we finally arrived to the point where our membership numbers had leveled off and we felt we couldn’t grow on our own anymore without a rabbi. 

Ira Stone wrote me to say, “My story of coming to Beth Shalom is fairly simple. When I was a senior in rabbinical school I had a student pulpit in Bennington, Vermont and was considering staying there after ordination. However, one of my best friends throughout high school and college was Ken Weinberg, who not only alerted me to the position at Beth Shalom, but ‘hocked’ me until I agreed to apply, even if only to get a free trip out to visit him. After I applied Allen Gown met with me in New York and felt it would be worth bringing me to interview in Seattle. The rest is history.”

Sun, January 23 2022 21 Shevat 5782