History of Temple Beth Israel
As many histories go, the actual “incorporation” date eludes us, but the congregation of Temple Beth Israel was founded sometime in the late 19th century. The first recorded history of “Mountain City Hebrew Reformed Congregation” comes to us on October 4th, 1874 and for the first 20 years or so, services were held in the homes of members and various rented halls in the city.
In 1922, the name changed to “Temple Beth Israel.” The Temple moved from its original structural home at 13th Avenue and 15th Street to its present location on Union Avenue on June 9th, 1927, when the 3004 Union Avenue building was dedicated.
As a member of the Union for Reformed Judaism, Temple Beth Israel is committed to the principles of Reform Judaism, including respect for Jewish diversity, freedom of thought and conscience, creative and flexible modern Jewish living, complete gender equality, a commitment to inclusion, social justice and Tikkun Olam (repair of the world), living the ethical precepts of Torah and the Prophets and a serious commitment to Jewish worship and the study of Jewish texts.
Though many have served the Temple, our longest standing spiritual leader, Rabbi Nathan Kaber, Rabbi emeritus, served the Temple from 1947 – 1978. Though separated by geography, he remained an active member of the congregation for many years until his death on December 26, 2008 at the age of 95.
Of the many traditions of Temple Beth Israel, one is life long learning, and education is the key to the growth and maturity of its members. The education of out members is highly important to us. Our Hebrew school for children from third grade to sixth, our B’nai Mitzvah and confirmation process are highly challenging and successful. The adult education of members continue with Torah study and often includes education series with speakers on various topics including national and international service and studies.
Other educational opportunities exist for our members though the Greater Altoona Jewish Community Sunday School for children in Kindergarten though ninth grade and for adults through Torah study.
Who are we?
We are men, women and children of every background, sharing the joys of Judaism in a setting that is energetic, welcoming, inclusive, pluralistic, and egalitarian.
We are active in the life of our congregation, serving as prayer leaders, teachers of adults and children, and community activists working in the spirit of our prophetic tradition.
We are life-long learners, from our early-childhood programs, to our Religious School that encompasses Kindergarten through B’nai Mitzvah and 10th-grade Confirmation, to our extensive programs of Adult Education including regular study of scripture.
We are proud heirs of the progressive foundations of Reform Judaism, which infuse respect for Jewish texts and history with commitment to modern scholarship, social justice, and ethical living.