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60 Years and Still Going Strong

Although Jews have lived in Memphis since the 1850s, it took a century until the city welcomed its first and only Conservative synagogue, Beth Sholom. On December 16, 1954, at the home of Mr. and Mrs. M. Starr at 255 Hawthorne, 37 dedicated men and women voted to establish Beth Sholom and elected Herman Appleton as its chairman. The State of Tennessee issued a Charter of Incorporation for Beth Sholom Synagogue on January 4, 1955, and one week later, conducted Kabbalat Shabbat Services and Oneg Shabbat in the B'nai Brith Home Chapel (now the Memphis Jewish Home & Rehab). The congregation lacked a permanent location, traveling from one venue to another for services and religious school. It hired Rabbi M. Herbert Berger as its first spiritual leader and formed a Sisterhood that continues to support Beth Sholom today. 

On May 8, 1956, the congregation opened a permanent residence in a two-story building at 482 S. Mendenhall. Under its second spiritual leader, Rabbi Meyer Passow (1956-1959), Beth Sholom organized its daily minyan, which is still a focal point today.

Rabbi Arie Becker: A Transformative Leader

Rabbi Arie Becker arrived to lead the congregation in 1959 and stayed 20 years until his death in 1979. Congregational membership soared, and a result, a new ten-room Religious School building opened in 1961. Soon, the congregation outgrew its home, and it built a new facility on its site that included a sanctuary, social hall, kosher kitchen, and administrative offices. The new Beth Sholom building was dedicated on March 5, 1967. The previous year Beth Sholom had acquired a five-acre tract of land within the Eastlawn Cemetery Grounds to establish Beth Sholom Memorial Gardens, which was then consecrated on March 19, 1968. 

Beth Sholom moved into its current home at 6675 Humphreys Boulevard in 2000. We are home to the only mikveh within 200 milesWe worship in a modern sanctuary on Shabbat and in the intimate Rabbi Arie Becker Chapel for minyans. The octagonal chapel's brilliant stained glass windows were donated to Beth Sholom by Temple Israel in Blytheville, Arkansas. This small congregation was taken under the wing by Beth Sholom in 1995 and subsequently closed in 2003.

 

Highlights in Our History

December 16, 1954: Initial meeting to form a Conservative synagogue

February 11, 1955: Beth Sholom Synagogue holds first Shabbat service at B’nai Brith Home

1955: Rabbi M. Herbert Berger becomes first rabbi

May 8, 1956: Land & building purchased at 482 S. Mendenhall

1959: Rabbi Arie Becker becomes third spiritual leader

March 5, 1967: New building at 482 S. Mendenhall dedicated

1967: Claudia Burkins joins staff

Late 60s: Annual Lox Box fundraiser & Las Vegas Night begin

1976: Cantor Elliot Finkelstein becomes cantor

1979: Rabbi Winter becomes our fourth spiritual leader

1980: Torah scrolls stolen & thrown into the Wolf River. The scrolls were recovered but unable to be restored.

1984: Rabbi Ephraim Rubinger becomes fifth rabbi

1988: Rachel Shankman becomes the first female president and is also the first female to be given an aliyah

1990: Rabbi Peter Light becomes the seventh rabbi

1995: Cantor David Julien joins the staff

2000: New synagogue building at 6675 Humpreys Blvd. is dedicated

2005: Fiftieth anniversary & induction of Rabbi Aaron Rubenstein as our eighth spiritual leader

2015-6: Beth Sholom celebrates 60 years as a shul! Staff includes Rabbi Ilan Glazer, Executive Director Geo Poor, DCL Penina Hoffnung, Administrative Assistant Cheryl Strong, & Kitchen supervisor Claudia Burkins

2017: Rabbi Sarit Horwitz arrives in Memphis to serve as our spiritual leader. Elana Moss joins us as Director of Congregational Learning and Programming.

 

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Beth Sholom Rabbis, Past & Present

 

Herbert Berger 1955-1956
Meyer Passow 1956-1959
Arie Becker  1959-1979
Edmund Winter 1979-1984
Ephraim Rubinger  1984-1989
Pincas Aloof 1989-1990
Peter Light 1990-2004
Diane Cohen 2004-2005
Aaron Rubinstein 2005-2013
Chana Leslie Glazer  2013-2015
Ilan Glazer   

2013-2016

 

Fri, April 20 2018 5 Iyyar 5778