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.

 MLK Jr

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.  Rabbi Amy L. Memis-Foler became Beth Emet's fourth Rabbi when Skokie's Temple Judaea Mizpah merged with Beth Emet in the fall of 2018.

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 incorporating her vitality and classical training to complement Beth Emet's worship services. In July 2019, Cantor Rabbi Kyle Cotler began his tenure at Beth Emet bringing with him a musical legacy of his own - a fourth-generation cantor, and a first-generation Rabbi. 

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.

Beth Emet officially welcomed the member families of Temple Menorah in 2017 after their Rogers Park synagogue had ceased operations. Similarily, Temple Judea Mizpah (TJM), a warm and welcoming Reform Jewish community in Skokie, was exploring options for a new home after nearly 60 years. Former Temple Menorah and TJM congregants have both been terrific additions to our community, serving on the Board and in other leadership roles, contributing to the Mitzvah Appeal and other campaigns, singing in the choir, attending services, and supporting other events. We are fortunate to now have both congregations woven into the fabric of Beth Emet’s diverse and multi-generational membership.

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.

  • Chanukah Concert with Cantors Cotler

    Sunday, December 15 at 5:00 p.m.
    This concert will feature many of your favorite Chanukah tunes and some new melodies as well! You’ll laugh, you’ll cry (from laughing), and you’ll revel in the stories and music whi...

  • Chanukah Shabbat Chicken Soup Dinner & Celebration

    Friday, December 27 at 5:30 p.m. followed by Shabbat Services at 6:30 p.m.

    Celebrate Channukah Shabbat at Beth Emet! Dine on chicken soup, latkes, applesauce, and for dessert, sufganiyot! A vegetarian option will...

  • Ivrit with Ronit

    With Ronit Levy
    Wednesdays, October 23 - November 18 | 4:30-5:30 p.m.

    A fun afternoon Hebrew class for children ages 4-6. Learn Hebrew through songs, games, dance, snack, yoga and more.

    $10 per session. Please co...

  • Celebrate & Commemorate - BE@70

     


    January 10-12, 2020

    View the weekend events and register today! 

    For 70 years, Beth Emet The Free Synagogue has created a community uniquely open to diverse understanding and expression of what it means to be a J...

  • Beth Emet Community Retreat

    February 28-March 1, 2020
    After a five-year hiatus, Beth Emet’s Community Retreat is back and better than ever! Spend a relaxing weekend with friends and family in beautiful Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, celebrating Shabb...

  •  Thinking about keeping your slate clean after Yom Kippur? Want a Jewish way to deepen your focus on your speech, behavior, and ideas? Looking to connect to people in meaningful ways? You may be looking for tikkun m...

  • Beth Emet Book Club


    facilitated by Judith Pittel
    Count to a Thousand: Negotiating life as an American in modern-day Israel 
    with author Caroline Goldberg Igra
    Wednesday, November 20 at 1:00 p.m. 
    Count to a Thousand tells the story of an A...

  • Thursdays, January 16, February 27, March 19, April 23 | 7:00 – 8:30 p.m.

    Participants study as a small group of adults studies to become b’nei mitzvah together at Beth Emet. Requirements for Adult B’nei Mitzvah at Beth Emet...

  • with David Shyovitz
    Fridays, December 13 and 20 | 9:45 – 11:15 a.m.
    The relationship between Christians and Jews has been marked by violence and mutual antagonism for much of the past 2000 years; but at the same time, Jews and ...

  • with David Zarefsky

    Tuesdays, November 12 and January 7 | 7:30 - 9:00 p.m.
    This is a continuing lecture-discussion class on contemporary public issues of interest to Jews as citizens. We will focus primarily on United States ...

  • Drumming for Self-Renewal

    with Linda Schneider
    Wednesday, December 11; 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 brea...

  • with Rabbi Amy L. Memis-Foler
    Monday, December 9 | 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.
    Jewish values teach us that we are obligated to treat the sojourner with dignity. In the chapter, Imagining Immigration: The Stranger in Jewish Law and Lore, f...

  •  Thinking about keeping your slate clean after Yom Kippur? Want a Jewish way to deepen your focus on your speech, behavior, and ideas? Looking to connect to people in meaningful ways? You may be looking for tikkun middot.

    Be...

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