Rabbi Dahton Nasi of Congregation Temple Beth El
Coming Together To Worship God
Tiferes B'nai Israel welcomes Temple
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
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
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
Tiferes B'nai Israel
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