Beth Emet - The Free Synagogue

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.

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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.

  • Shabbat, April 27 at 9:30 a.m

    Children ages three to eleven are encouraged to attend to Beth Emet’s Shabbat morning Kahal service with their adult family members to participate in a musical prayer service. During...

  • YWCA Stand Against Racsim

    Wednesday, April 24
    Vigil/Stand at 1:30-1:50 p.m. on Ridge and Dempster
    Discussion: 2:00-3:00 p.m. at Unitarian Church of Evanston (1330 Ridge Ave., Evanston)

    As civil and human rights continue to be eroded for imm...

  • Sundays, April 28 and May 5 | 9:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
    with Rabbi Andrea London and Marci Dickman

    Anyone who is a parent knows that parenting is simultaneously stressful and fulfilling, exhausting and invigorating, frus...

  • Passover Food Drive

    Sunday, April 7 - Friday, May 3


    Pre-Passover Food Collection to benefit Connections for the Homeless
    The Tzedakah Fund Committee will be collecting all unopened, non-perishable food items that will be donated to C...

  • Avodah to honor Rabbi Andrea London as Partner in Justice 2019

    Thursday, May 16 at 6:30 p.m. at Cafe Brauer (2021 N. Stockton Drive, Chicago)
    Join Avodah in honoring their 2019 Partners in Justice honoring the accomplishments of David Axelrod, Rabbi Andrea London, and Jessica ...

  • Parent-Child Book Group: Anything is Possible

    A Parent-Child Book Group on Anything is Possible: A Child’s Journey to America and Hope - a young reader's historical novel by Barbara Stock
    Thursday, May 23 | 5:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.
    For children in grades 4 and 5 w...

  • Israel Trip with Beth Emet, Second Baptist Church, and Grace Lutheran Church


    Beth Emet Synagogue, Second Baptist Church, and Grace Lutheran Church are taking an interfaith, dual narrative (Palestinian and Jewish guide) to Israel and the West Bank. Travel with Rabbi London and Pastors Nabors ...

  • New course just added!
    with Eli Rosenblatt, PhD
    Tuesday, May 7 at 7:30 p.m.

    How have Jews interacted with and responded to the color line? How did Jewish radicals, reformers, rabbis, and laypeople think about racial concepts ...

  • A Close Look at Torah

    with Rabbi Andrea London
    Fridays through June 7 (No class April 19 and 26)
    9:30 a.m. - 10:35 a.m.
    There are many ways to interpret Torah and the nuances of meaning that are often overlooked. We will continue our learning from ...

  • With Rabbi Andrea London

    Shabbat, April 6, May 11, and June 1
    3:30–5:30 pm This class meets at Rabbi London's home.

    Once a month on Shabbat afternoon at Rabbi London's home, explore Jewish spiritual practices that combine pr...

  • with David Zarefsky

    Tuesday, June 4 | 7:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.
    Sessions will focus on the place of the United States in the world, including relationships with Israel, the nature of the social contract, and the principles of fed...

  • Drumming for Self-Renewal

    with Linda Schneider
    Wednesday, June 12; 7:30 – 9:00 p.m.

    Percussion offers hands-on, non-verbal access to the spiritual and emotional while connecting with others. Treat your mind, body, and spirit to an uplifting break fr...

  • with Lindy Rubin and Hyma Levin
    Monday, May 6, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
    Lindy and Hyma will collaborate to explore the story of King David, first as text and then as interpreted and portrayed by renowned artists throughout the ages. We...

  • with Claire Sufrin
    Fridays, May 3 and 10, 10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
    This course will explore different aspects of the relationship between religion and literature. We’ll begin with the biblical story of the Binding of Isaac and c...

  • with Hyma Levin
    Wednesdays, May 22 and 29, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
    Enjoy the story of Ruth as we explore the relationship of an older woman and a younger woman seeking to preserve themselves in ancient Israel. Is this story a cute fol...

  • with Rabbi Peter Knobel

    Fridays through June 28 | 8:00 – 9:00 a.m (No class April 19 and 26)

    Meeting in person in October, and through Zoom online thereafter, we will continue reading Tractate Avodah Zarah, which deals with...

  • with Ben Frommer
    Fridays, May 17 and 24, 10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
    The Nuremberg Tribunal and other courts punished many architects of the so-called Final Solution, while thousands of other Holocaust supporters escaped punishment...

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