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Students spend long hours repairing Mississippi rooftops on Hillel's alternative-break program.
Rabbi Dahton Nasi of Congregation Temple Beth El

Coming Together To Worship God

Tiferes B'nai Israel welcomes Temple Bethel.

Friday night May 19 was a special evening for Congregation Tiferes B'nai Israel, a Reconstructionist synagogue in Warrington, Pennsylvania. They had the
distinct honor of welcoming Congregation Temple Bethel for a joint Kabbalat Shabbat service. Temple Bethel is a predominantly African American synagogue located in the West Oak Lane area of Philadelphia.

This is the first time this type of joining together of Black and White Jews to pray has been held in the Delaware Valley. Together we had an emotion filled evening of worship, song and prayer.

The evening began with a dinner prior to Shabbat. The Friday night service was led by both Rabbi Deborah Bowen from Temple Bethel and Rabbi Jon Cutler of Congregation Tiferes B'nai Israel. Rabbi Bowen led her senior choir in the first prayer Hinei Ma Tov. The choir as accompanied by musicians on
keyboard, drums, and trumpet. The electricity in the air was such that many congregants were moved to tears. Here were Jews, Blacks and Whites, united in our spirituality.

Congregation Tiferes B'nai Israel was lead by cantors Laurie Kauffmann and Susan Dorfman. Temple Bethel members were introduced to the "traditional" Friday Shabbat service. They have requested a tape of this service to incorporate into their own. The evening continued with both the junior and senior choirs from Temple Bethel with everyone on their feet singing and clapping. The  final prayer of the evening, Adon Olam, was led by a young junior choir member.

Congregation Temple Bethel was founded over 50 years ago by a group of African Americans who converted to Judaism. They believed that their ancestors were originally Jewish and they were rediscovering their heritage. They started their own synagogue in North Philadelphia and when they outgrew that space, moved to West Oak Lane. While in West Oak Lane they formed a relationship with Rabbi Sidney Greenberg (now deceased) who at the time lived across the street from Temple Bethel.
Rabbi Greenberg was instrumental in helping them buy their Torah scrolls and he donated prayer books. They had trouble buying Jewish books and Torah scrolls because of their race. Currently Temple Bethel has over 300 families. Their services is conservative but their practice is
close to orthodox. Saturday services start in the morning and many stay the entire day until the completion of the evening Havdalah service.

Congregation Tiferes B'Nai Israel is a Reconstructionist synagogue located in the heart of Bucks County. They were chartered in Warrington in 1924. More than 105 member families worship at Tiferes B'nai Israel which provides the warmth of a small congregation while offering a variety of educational
and social services usually found only in larger congregations. Rabbi  Jon Cuter had been working for seven years with Rabbi Bowen to put this "one of a kind" joint service together.

As one member said after the event: "I was never prouder of TBI than I was last night". Members of both Temples had a wonderful time and look forward to the next joint service to be held at Temple Bethel in West Oak Lane

Sheryl Sussman, Tiferes B'nai Israel

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