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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.

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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.

  • Thursdays, November 1, 8, 15, and December 13 at 7:30 p.m.
    How does who we are and how we describe ourselves shape the ways in which we understand our everyday experience as Jews? As Reform Jews, we are part of a div...

  • Sundays, November 18, December 16, January 6 & 27, February 10, March 10
    1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

    Led by congregants Sue Nadel, Clark Ellithorpe, and Jane Weintraub, Wise Aging, Living with Joy, Resilience, and Spirit,...

  • Explorations of Our Changing Selves

    Monday, November 5 at 3:00 p.m.

    Linda Schneider, a long-time Beth Emet member and the founder of Heartland Rhythms, will facilitate upbeat, hands-on music-making that is not only fun and good for the body and sou...

  • Scholar-in-Residence Weekend

     

    with Rabbi Marc Margolius
    November 16, 17, 18
    Middot: Nurturing the 'Better Angels of our Nature' in Challenging Times
    How can Judaism help us actualize our innate potential to do the right thing, even in challengin...

  • A Close Look at Torah

    with Rabbi Andrea London
    Fridays, October 5 - June 7 (No class November 23 and 30, December 21 and 28; January 4 and 25, April 19 and 26)
    9:30 a.m. - 10:35 a.m.
    There are many ways to interpret Torah and the nuances of meaning...

  • Thursdays, October 11 and November 8; Wednesday, December 5; Thursday, January 10; Wednesday, February 6; Thursdays, March 7, April 4, and May 2
    7:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

    Partcipants study as a small group of adults studies to be...

  • With Rabbi Andrea London

    Shabbat, October 6, November 10, December 15, January 19, February 9, March 9, 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 R...

  • Drumming for Self-Renewal

    with Linda Schneider
    Wednesday, October 17; Monday, December 10; and Wednesday, February 13; 7:30 – 9:00 p.m.

    Percussion offers hands-on, non-verbal access to the spiritual and emotional while connecting with others. Treat ...

  • Hebrew 1

    with Nancy Fink

    Sundays, September 30 - May 12 (No class October 28; November 25; December 23 and 30; January 6; February 17; April 21)
    11:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon
    Master the Hebrew alphabet and learn how to sound out printed He...

  • Hebrew 2

    with Bluma Stoller
    Sundays, September 30 - May 12 (No class October 28; November 25; December 23 and 30; January 6; February 17; April 21)
    10:30 a.m. -11:50 p.m.

    For learners already able to sound out Hebrew words. Improve y...

  • Hebrew 3

    with Dorit Flatt
    Sundays, September 30 - May 12 (No class October 28; November 25; December 23 and 30; January 6; February 17; April 21)
    11:00 a.m.-12:00 noon
    For learners who have completed Hebrew 2 or an equivalent, includin...

  • With Edward Linn, MD and genetic counselor Rebecca Wang, MS, CGC
    Sunday, October 21, 9:30 - 11:00 a.m.
    As genetic testing and technology advances, what does our community need to know? The Norton & Elaine Sarnoff Center for J...

  • Mindful Torah: Engaging with Middot

    facilitated by Marci Dickman
    Monthly, October 8, October 29, November 19, December 17, January 14, February 4, March 4, April 1, and May 13, 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
    This Torah study program will guide us to realize our best selves...

  • with Rabbi Dov Weiss
    Fridays, October 5 and 19, 10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
    Often described as a religion that tolerates and even celebrates arguments with God, Judaism endorses a tradition of protest as first expressed in the bibl...

  • with Rabbi Peter Knobel

    Fridays October 5 - June 28 | 8:00 – 9:00 a.m (No class, November 23, December 21 and December 28, January 4, April 19 and 26)

    Meeting in person in October, and through Zoom online thereafter, we wil...

  • with Barry Scott Wimpfheimer
    Fridays, October 26 and November 2, 10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
    The Talmud has symbolized Jews and Judaism throughout history. Judaism is often thought of as a religion that is opposed to visual image...

  • Thursdays, November 1, 8, 15, and December 13 at 7:30 p.m.
    How does who we are and how we describe ourselves shape the ways in which we understand our everyday experience as Jews? As Reform Jews, we are part of a diverse group...

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