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Beth Emet is a diverse, multigenerational Reform community with a dynamic approach to Judaism. Our congregation seeks to create a spiritually vibrant, socially conscious, intellectually challenging, and deeply caring environment firmly rooted in Jewish tradition and values.


Beth Emet began on a cold night in January 1950 when founding Rabbi David S. Polish, z"l, was told that he could not lead services at his Reform congregation. A fervent Zionist, Rabbi Polish's support of the State of Israel did not please some of his congregants. With a broken contract, Rabbi Polish, his wife Aviva, and two children, joined with forty other families to establish the first Reform congregation in Evanston. Our full name, Beth Emet The Free Synagogue, refers to freedom of speech from the pulpit, a right Rabbi Polish was denied by his former synagogue.

On August 1, 1950, Beth Emet purchased an eleven room mansion on the corner of Dempster and Ridge. In keeping with the Congregation's commitment to freedom and liberty for all, several champions of progressive ideas have found a welcome dais for their programs on Beth Emet's bimah, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1958.Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1958.

Education was and is a primary focus at Beth Emet. Shortly after the first weeks, Hebrew classes were organized, and a nursery school and adult education program were established within the first year.

When Rabbi Polish announced in 1979 that he would retire the following year, a search and screen committee was formed to select his successor. In June 1980, Rabbi Emeritus Peter S. Knobel became our second Senior Rabbi. Rabbi Knobel made significant contributions to the Beth Emet community and the Reform Judaism community-at-large. Among his many accomplishments, Rabbi Knobel chaired the editorial committee for the movement's current prayerbook, Mishkan T'filah, and is also a former president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR).

In July 1993, Rabbi Eleanor Smith joined Beth Emet as Assistant and then Associate Rabbi. Upon her resignation in 2000, Rabbi Andrea London joined the congregation, and in 2010, upon the retirement of Rabbi Knobel, became Beth Emet's third Senior Rabbi. Rabbi London is deeply engaged in all aspects of congregational life, including worship, lifecycle events, counseling and support, adult education, youth education and programming, social action, and interfaith relations. 

In 1982, Beth Emet's first full-time Cantor, Jeffrey Klepper, joined the congregation. Cantor Klepper played a large role in forming the Beth Emet choir, and his enthusiasm and energy did much to enhance our worship experience. When he announced his departure in 2001, Cantor Gershon Silins was selected to succeed him and served until 2003. From 2004-2009, Cantor Erin Frankel was Beth Emet's third invested cantor. Cantor Arik Luck joined our team of clergy in 2009 and brought many innovative and traditional musical arrangements to the pulpit during his time at Beth Emet. In the summer of 2015, Cantor Susan Lewis Friedman was welcomed as Beth Emet's fifth Cantor. Cantor Friedman's vitality and classical training greatly complements Beth Emet's worship services. 

In 2002, Beth Emet's weekly soup kitchen opened its doors for the first time and still feeds approximately 100 diners a nutritious meal every Wednesday evening. Led by congregants and powered solely by volunteers from both within and outside of the Beth Emet community, our soup kitchen is indicative of Beth Emet's continued commitment to social action and tzedakah.

Today, Beth Emet continues the ideology of its founders. We are a liberal, Reform Jewish congregation; we promote freedom of the pulpit for our clergy, and our membership is encouraged to express its varied intellectual and political views. We are actively engaged in study and worship. We work closely to build bridges within our own community, with other faith based communities, and with social service organizations to bring about opportunities for open dialogues and work towards creating a better community, both locally and around the globe. Our building is filled to the brim with not only spiritual and emotional memories, but also physical artifacts of Beth Emet’s commitment to Judaism, Israel and our community. 

We are proud of our past, and we greet the future eagerly, filled with energy, zeal and commitment.

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Beth Emet is a diverse, multigenerational Reform community with a dynamic approach to Judaism. Our congregation seeks to create a spiritually vibrant, socially conscious, intellectually challenging, and deeply caring environment firmly rooted in Jewish tradition and values.

  • Scholar-in-Residence Shabbat
    with Professor Noah Efron

    November 4, 5, and 6, 2016
    Noah Efron is a senior faculty member in the Graduate Program in Science, Technology and Society at Bar Ilan University, in Israel, and host of The Promised Pod...The Promised Pod...

  • Wednesday, November 9 at 7:00 p.m.

    “And if your neighbor becomes poor and his means fail him with you, then you shall strengthen him…” (Leviticus 25:35)

    In the beginning of 2016, a group of Jews of diverse ages an...

  • Soup Bowls for the Soup Kitchen

    Sunday, November 13 | 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

    Inspired by the award-winning children's book Last Stop on Market Street, eighth grade Nichols students will be selling their handmade ceramic bowls as a fundraiser f...

  • A Close Look at Torah

    with Rabbi Andrea London
    Fridays, October 28 - June 2 (No class November 25, December 23, 30, January 27, March 24, April 14)
    9:30 a.m. - 10:35 a.m.
    There are many ways to interpret Torah and the nuances of meaning that are of...

  • With Rabbi Andrea London

    Shabbat, November 19, December 10, January 14, February 18, April 1, April 22, May 13, June 17
    3:30–5:30 pm This class meets at Rabbi London's home.

    Once a month on Shabbat afternoon at Rabbi London'...

  • Current Politics


    with David Zarefsky
    Monday, November 11 and Tuesday, January 10 
    7:30-9:00 p.m.

    An interactive discussion of contemporary events focusing on topics such as recent Supreme Court decisions, congressional and gubernatorial ele...

  • Drumming for Self-Renewal

    with Linda Schneider
    Mondays, November 14, December 14, December 5, January 9

    7:30 - 9:00 p.m.

    How would it feel to take a break from the regimen and “noise” of everyday life and instead focus on renewal of mind, body, and s...

  • with Bluma Stoller

    Sundays, October 16-May 21 (No class November 27, December 25 and, January 1)
    10:45 a.m. - 12:00 noon
    For learners who have no background in Hebrew language background or with very limited Hebrew reading ski...

  • with Nancy Fink
    Sundays, October 16 - May 14 (No class October 30, November 27, December 25, January 1, February 19, April 16)
    10:45 a.m. -12:00 noon

    This yearlong course is for those who are already able to sound out Hebrew w...

  • with Rabbi Herbert Bronstein
    Friday, October 28, 10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
    In his time, Spinoza was despised as an atheist by intellectuals and established authorities, and excommunicated by Amsterdam Jewry, where his father had ...

  • with Rabbi Peter Knobel and Dr. Lynne Kaminer
    Wednesdays, November 2 and 16, 7:30 – 9:00 p.m.
    Genetic engineering and modern technology offer us the opportunity to cure disease, relieve catastrophic situations, and alter human ...

  • with Dina Elenbogen
    Sunday, November 20, 9:30 – 11:00 a.m.
    We will read and discuss the work of Jewish poets around the globe, including Yehuda Amichai, Paul Celan, Edmond Jabes, Muriel Rukeyser, and Nelly Sachs. We will...
  • with Claire Sufrin
    Fridays, November 4 and 18, 10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
    Jewish women and girls are taking on changing roles in Judaism. The number of women studying to be rabbis in the Reform movement is now equal to that of men...

  • with Ellen Blum Barish
    Tuesday, October 25, 7:30 – 9:00 p.m. or
    Friday, December 16, 10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
    Ethical wills help us pass along stories and wisdom that create a spiritual legacy and address questions such as: What ...

  • with Rabbi Peter Knobel

    Fridays, October 28 - June 2 (No class November 25, December 23, 30, January 27, April 14), 8:00 – 9:00 a.m

    This year we will continue reading Tractate Avodah Zarah, which deals with idolatry and the...

  • with Rabbi David Rosenberg
    Friday, November 11, 10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
    The Sh’ma prayer is at the center of Jewish liturgy. At one time, the Ten Commandments were as well. In this class, we will explore texts that explain
    what ...