July 2007

Top Stories
• GOP Slams Study
• Jewish Ed. Econ. 101
• Fighting Words
• Letters to the Editor

In Their Own Words
• Sen. Chris Dodd
•  Sen. Hillary Clinton
• Sen. Barak Obama
• Gov. Bill Richardson

Networking Central
• Star of David Bikers

Raising A Mensch
• Hospitality

• Cong. Beth Hamedrosh
• Interfaith Walk

Living Judaism
• The Big Picture

The Kosher Table
• Kosher Ice Cream

Free Subscription

Past Issues
2008 J


    Email This     About     Subscription     Donate     Contact     Links     Archives  

Congregation Beth Hamedrosh moves from West Philadelphia to Overbrook Park in 1960, and then to Penn Wynne in 2007. Their new sefer torah is being held by their spiritual leader, Rabbi Shlomo Caplan.

Torah Scrolls Brought to New Home of Beth Hamedrosh

-- Michael Wolf

Under overcast skies, with frequent glances to the heavens, a group of more than 100 people gathered on the lawn at the Kaiserman JCC on Sunday, June 3, to help Congregation Beth Hamedrosh complete a move from its former home in Overbrook Park. With klezmer clarinet accompaniment synagogue leaders carried a newly completed Sefer Torah and the shul’s other Sifrei Torah in a procession along Haverford Avenue from the JCC to the synagogue’s new building at 200 Haverford Road in Wynnewood. By the time the rain arrived, the Sifrei Torah, the leaders and guests had safely entered the new shul building to celebrate completion of the new $2.9 million synagogue.

The move marked a major transition for Congregation Beth Hamedrosh. In 1960, as other West Philadelphia synagogues were preparing to move out of Philadelphia to surrounding suburbs, Congregation Beth Hamedrosh settled into its home in Overbrook Park. For 47 years, first under the leadership of Rabbi Meir Cohen, and since 1977 under the leadership of Rabbi Shlomo Caplan, the orthodox synagogue remained a center for Jewish life inside the city limits. In recent years, however, as more and more of the younger members of the synagogue settled in Wynnewood, just past City Line Avenue, it became clear that the 7505 Brookhaven location in the city was not helping the synagogue thrive.

State Representative Daylin Leach presents David Eckmann, President of Congregation Beth Hamedrosh, with the resolution he sponsored commemorating the 59th anniversary of the birth of Israel.

Rabbi Caplan and a dedicated group of synagogue leaders found a new home in Wynnewood, barely a mile from the shul’s original home. The synagogue purchased a property on the corner of Haverford Road and Manoa several years ago. Despite financial challenges, zoning problems and initial hostility from a few neighbors, the group persevered. With the assistance of Lower Merion Commissioner Lance Rogers, a neighbor of current synagogue president Dr. David Eckmann, after some delay the synagogue was able to undertake construction of a new space added to the existing building on the property. After selling its old building, the synagogue held services at the Kaiserman JCC, half the distance to the new home, for several months as work on the new building proceeded.

While planning for a new home, the shul also undertook to have a new Sefer Torah written. On this day in June, the new Sefer Torah was carried from the shul’s temporary home to its new one. Before the Torah procession, scholar and synagogue member Dr. Barry Eichler reminded the assembled listeners that in Hebrew the past is referred to as "yimay qedem," usually translated as "days of old" but suggesting also that Jews face their past as they advance. The future, "acharit hayamim" in Hebrew, is "the days behind us." Dr. Eichler noted that Jews have their view of the past to guide them as they move into the future. By the time the procession reached the new building, over 300 people had gathered for the ceremony. In the new building, guest speaker Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky compared a synagogue to the land of Israel, and congratulated Beth Hamedrosh on having a mortgage that will require additional fund raising. Rabbi Caplan graciously accepted the financial burdens a new home may represent, and spoke of the synagogue’s intention to increase prayer, learning and outreach from its new home.

Rabbi Shmuel Kamenetsky and Rabbi Aaron Felder.

The dedication of the new synagogue also comes at a time of hopeful growth for the Jewish community in Wynnewood-Penn Wynne and Havertown. With a new eruv recently dedicated, Chabad of Wynnewood moving into a space across the street from the new synagogue in the near future, and successful synagogues at nearby Suburban Jewish Center Bnai Aaron and Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El, Jewish life just across City Line Avenue seems to be thriving.

Did you enjoy this article?

If so,

  • share it with your friends so they do not miss out on this article,
  • subscribe (free), so you do not miss out on the next issue,
  • donate (not quite free but greatly appreciated) to enable us to continue providing this free service.

If not,