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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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  • Kol Emet Shabbat

    Friday, May 6 at 6:30 p.m. (5:45 p.m. Oneg Shabbat)

  • Beth Em-eats

    A Delicious Way to Support Beth Emet

    Various times and locations:
    Saturday Night, May 7
    Saturday Night, May 14
    Sunday Brunch, May 15

    Come to Beth Emet's FUNdraiser featuring home-cooked meals prepared for you by Bet...

  • Post-Passover Food Collection to Benefit The Ark

    May 1-15
    The Tzedakah Fund Committee will be collecting all unopened, non-perishable, Passover food items such as matzah or any other kosher food products. Additionally,  you may drop off any other unopened kosher ...


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.

  • Explorations of Our Changing Selves

    Monday, May 2 at 3:00 p.m.

    Family Issues Aging Task Force (FIAT) popular series Explorations of Our Changing Selves, a Tea and Discussion for Women 60 & Over meets on the first Monday of each month to discuss top...

  • Beth Emet Commemorates Yom HaShoah

    Beth Emet will be hosting two special programs to commemorate Holocaust Remembrance Day. 

    Hidden But Not Forgotten

    with Danny M. Cohen
    Sunday, May 1 at 10:00 a.m.
    How do we come to remember Holocaust history? Why ...

  • Kol Emet Shabbat

    Friday, May 6 at 6:30 p.m. (5:45 p.m. Oneg Shabbat)

  • On the Table, Evanston

    Tuesday, May 10 at 6:30 p.m.

    "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

    Evanston prides itself on being a vibrant, diverse community. But more often th...

  • Yom Space

    A Yom HaAtzmaut SpaceIL Family Program
    Thursday, May 12, 5:15 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
    For families with children age three through fifth grade.
    Celebrate Israel’s Independence Day with a virtual trip into space! SpaceIL i...

  • BESSY Kabbalat Shabbat Service

    Friday, May 13 at 6:30 p.m.
    (5:45 p.m. Oneg Shabbat)
    Beth Emet’s peer-led high school youth group hosts a special service filled with music and reflections. The congregation will also celebrate the upcoming marriage ...

  • Dinner After

    Following Kabbalat Shabbat Services

    The next Dinner After will meet May 20 at Koi (624 Davis St., Evanston)

    Following Kabb...

  • with Andy Montgomery
    Shabbat, May 21 at 10:30 a.m.
    Shabbat morning regular and experienced teacher Andy Montgomery will meet with kids during the Kahal Torah service (at about 10:30 a.m.) to facilitate a discussion am...

  • with Danny M. Cohen
    Sunday, May 1 at 10:00 a.m
    How do we come to remember Holocaust history? Why are some Holocaust stories neglected or forgotten altogether? And what can we do to make sure we remember Holocaust history in a m...

  • No Asylum: The Untold Chapter of Anne Frank's Story

    Thursday, May 5 at 7:15 p.m.

    A documentary film directed by Paula Fouce.

    The story that has never been told about Anne Frank reveals new information about her father, Otto, and his struggle to obtain visas and save his family d...

  • Continuing Our Catholic-Jewish Interfaith Dialogue in Evanston

    Wednesday, May 4 at 7:15 p.m. at St. Nicholas, 806 Ridge Avenue, Evanston
    Do you ever wonder if Jews and Catholics worship the same Creator, or why Catholics mark themselves with ashes once a year, or what is the purpose of ...

  • Drumming for Self-Renewal

    with Linda Schneider
    Monday, Monday, May 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 spirit? Drum circles offer the perfe...

  • with David Zarefsky
    Monday, May 9
    7:30-9:00 p.m.

    An interactive discussion of contemporary events focusing on topics such as recent Supreme Court decisions, congressional and gubernatorial elections, Israel and the larger Midd...

  • Friday, May 13
    10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
    with Rabbi Herbert Bronstein
    We regularly talk about and teach the Sh’ma, as we should, but little about the K’dushah, a prayer of equal importance to our religious outlook. This prayer, wi...

  • With Rabbi Andrea London

    Shabbat, May 14
    3:30–5:30 pm This class meets at Rabbi London's home.

    This is a program for those interested in deepening their spiritual life in a Jewish context. We read articles on Jewish theology...