By Karen Dorfman
Beth Israel of Greeley is celebrating its 100th anniversary, Sunday, Aug. 2, with a brunch at the Greeley Country Club.
The congregation will join with the City of Greeley for an open house at the synagogue, Monday, Aug. 3.
Beth Israel, an unaffiliated congregation, opened in 1909, first holding services in a small Greeley home.
Later, the synagogue moved to a second house across the street from East Ward School. The school was sometimes used for some of the synagogues activities and the children often utilized the school playground.
In 1952, Beth Israel purchased the Seventh Day Adventist building on 9th St. and 13th Ave. From here, Beth Israel continued as an established congregation.
After 21 years, Greeley National Bank offered to purchase the lot, and Beth Israel complied, using the money to build its current facility on Reservoir Road in 1974.
From its beginnings, Beth Israel has grown from a small community of five or six families, who led their own services, to its current membership of 56 families.
Because we are smaller, people really know each other. We have a responsibility to the synagogue to keep things going. Its been that way since I first moved to Greeley in 1962, says Nancy Weil, avid Beth Israel member. Its not an obligation, you just feel connected; there is a lot of support, she says.
Beth Israel holds Friday night and Saturday services about twice a month, which are led by Rabbi Sara Gilbert.
Although services arent always consistent, the community is always active. There are classes, study groups, office hours with the rabbi, potluck lunches and dinners, and activities within the congregation to help keep the community tightly knit.
Rabbi Gilbert began at Beth Israel as a student rabbi in 2003, leading services and teaching the adult classes. After being ordained in 2006, she assumed a much more active role at Beth Israel.
Beth Israels Sisterhood, called the Hebrew Progressive Sisterhood, has been intact since 1909, and is a vital part of the synagogue, organizing many events.
Every year we do a community service project and people are always involved. They just participate because that is the way our congregation is, says Weil.
Beth Israel collects clothes for needy children through a project called Promises for Children: Baby Shower. Congregants also conduct an annual High Holiday food drive for the Lower County Food Bank
The congregation is extraordinary, says Rabbi Gilbert, Beth Israel truly provides a spiritual home for many people in Greeley and the surrounding areas.
It is just a wonderful group of really hard working people who are really committed and very conscious of the need to compromise to meet everyones needs.
Because Beth Israel is the only synagogue in the county, it draws a diverse crowd of people. It makes our experience very rich, says Gilbert.
Beth Israel also has a religious school. While there is no confirmation program, Beth Israel has held many Bar and Bat mitzvahs over the years and the congregation takes pride in the involvement and development of its youth.
Some of the religious leaders assisting the congregation through the years have included the late Rabbi Abe Raich, Ken Halpern, the late Rabbi Daniel Goldberger, Joel Goldberger and Rabbi Sheldon Moss.