Where We Come From
Beth David Reform Congregation was formed in 1943 though the dedication and tireless efforts of Rabbi Samuel Glasner (zt”l) and was the fourth Reform temple in the Philadelphia area.
Rabbi Glasner used his personal funds to launch the Wynnefield congregation, and with $500 purchased the necessary advertising, music, and prayer books. With a borrowed Torah scroll and a non-Jewish choir of two, he conducted the first High Holy Day service for a group of 18 members in the Wynnefield Post of the Jewish War Veterans. By 1944, Erev Shabbat services were held weekly and a religious school opened. The Jewish War Veterans Post remained the spiritual home of Beth David for the next two years.
With the purchase of a building at 5220 Wynnefield Avenue, Beth David Reform Congregation was officially chartered in 1945. Rabbi Glasner was formally appointed Rabbi and served in this capacity until January, 1948. Rabbi Samuel H. Markowitz, (zt”l) followed Rabbi Glasner as the spiritual leader of Beth David, where he remained for sixteen years. Rabbi Markowitz was dedicated to Jewish education and expanded Beth David from a Beit Tefillah, House of Worship, to a Beit Midrash, House of Learning. Upon Rabbi Markowitz’s retirement in 1964, Beth David welcomed Rabbi Henry Cohen. The hallmark of Rabbi Cohen’s rabbinate was his personal dedication to social action. He inspired the congregation through his intellect and his caring.
Beth David’s first Cantor was Cantor Henry Pordes, (zt”l) who remained its cantor until his death. Beth David then welcomed from the then Soviet Union a young Lilia Kazansky (zt”l) as its Cantor, where she remained for 30 years until her retirement in 2015. Cantor Lauren Goodlev is now Beth David’s Cantor.
Today, Rabbi Cohen remains as Beth David’s Rabbi Emeritus. Since Rabbi Cohen’s retirement, Beth David has welcomed as its rabbis, Rabbi Robert Rozenberg, Rabbi Andrew Busch, and Rabbi Jim Egolf. Rabbi Beth Kalisch is our current spiritual leader.
Throughout its beginning years, Beth David quickly established itself as a dynamic congregation, a tight knit community dedicated to Jewish learning and social action. Members enjoyed the connections they established with one another, the intellectual challenges that came with learning and the satisfaction of working for worthy causes in the broader community.
For thirty-seven years Beth David remained in Wynnefield. In 1985, Beth David acquired a school and land in Gladwyne from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The school was originally used by St. John Vianney, whose rectory still stands in front of the synagogue. On May 2, 1986, the congregation dedicated its present sanctuary. The congregation has since grown and enlarged its building to properly accommodate the current membership. Ground breaking for this endeavor was in the spring of 2010 and was completed in 2012.
Today, Beth David’s spiritual and liturgical leaders are Rabbi Beth Kalisch and Cantor Lauren Levy.
The 10 Point Program
Originally devised by Rabbi Samuel Markowitz some 50 years ago, the 10-Point Program has stood as our guiding principles over the course of Beth David’s history:
- The congregation is an educational institution whose primary purpose is to counsel and instruct its members in leading a Jewish existence.
- The congregation must be maintained at a size which provides an opportunity for each member to be recognized as an important individual.
- The role of the Rabbi is primarily to teach Judaism and to serve the spiritual needs of the members.
- The Jewish education and participation of the family as a whole is a central focus of our synagogue program. Children cannot seriously appreciate a religion that is ignored by their parents.
- Religious services enable us to have a deeper understanding of ourselves, our faith and our world. During worship we renew the creative powers within ourselves and strengthen our capacity to live a Jewish life in the modern world.
- A congregation can provide maximum benefits for its members only if they give of themselves as well as render financial support.
- We learn by doing. Participation in some facet of the congregational program is indispensable to a satisfactory relationship between the individual member and the synagogue.
- The goals of our educational program are reverence for life, respect for our Jewish heritage and recognition of the ideals and insights of Judaism in our world.
- We are a democratic organization and all members have equal rights.
- Beth David is a Reform Jewish congregation. The principle of change as inherent in historic Judaism is the basis for congregational procedures, policies and programs.