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. 

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.

  • Gun Violence and Youth Activism a Panel Discussion featuring David Hogg

    Gun Violence and Youth Activism a Panel Discussion featuring David Hogg, Parkland Student and Co-founder of March for Our Lives
    Thursday, February 21 at 7:30 p.m.
    David Hogg is an American author and student who sur...

  • Parents & Kids Night Out at Beth Emet

    Saturday, February 23 at 5:30 p.m.
    Our last Parents and Kids Night Out at Beth Emet was such a success, we're doing it again! We will do Havdalah together as families in the Lobby. Then, we'll split up: parents wil...

  • Saturday, March 2 | 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
    Spend a meaningful Shabbat at Beth Emet exploring the middah (soul trait) of “Generosity of the Heart.” Begin your Shabbat with a period of meditation, followed by Kahal wors...

  • Baking a Difference


    Sunday, March 10 | 12:00 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.

    Beth Emet families are invited to participate in the upcoming family mitzvah event, Baking a Difference. Just in time for Purim, we will be making hamantashen and donating ...

  • Purim Carnival

    Sunday, March 17
    10:00 a.m
    . – Purim Carnival Open to Families with Members with Special Needs -  games and accommodations for children with special needs!
    10:30 a.m. – Purim Celebrations for Families with Young Chil...

  • Purim Spiel and Megillah Reading 5779

    Mamele Mia! Dinner with Abba & Ima
    An ABBA-inspirted Purim Speil and Megillah Reading
    Wednesday, March 20 at 7:00 p.m.

  • 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 ...

  • Thursdays, March 7, April 4, and May 2
    7:30 p.m. - 9:00 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 include Beth ...

  • With Rabbi Andrea London

    Shabbat, 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 Rabbi London's home, explore Jewish spiritual prac...

  • Current Politics

    with David Zarefsky
    Monday, March 11; 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 ...

  • Hebrew 1

    with Nancy Fink

    Sundays, Through May 12 (No class February 17; April 21)
    11:00 a.m. - 12:00 noon
    Master the Hebrew alphabet and learn how to sound out printed Hebrew. Connect Hebrew language to Jewish prayer, ritual, and tra...

  • Hebrew 2

    with Bluma Stoller
    Sundays, through May 12 (No class February 17; April 21)
    10:30 a.m. -11:50 p.m.

    For learners already able to sound out Hebrew words. Improve your reading fluency. Explore the themes and structure of the Sh...

  • Hebrew 3

    with Dorit Flatt
    Sundays, through May 12 (No class February 17; April 21)
    11:00 a.m.-12:00 noon
    For learners who have completed Hebrew 2 or an equivalent, including the basic ability to read and write Hebrew words. Explore gra...

  • Mindful Torah: Engaging with Middot

    facilitated by Marci Dickman
    Monthly,  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 in everyday life. Participants will receive weekly emails from Rabbi Ma...

  • with David Shyovitz
    Fridays, February 22 and March 1, 10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
    Repentance (t’shuvah) is a central theme of biblical and rabbinic tradition—but its meaning has not remained static over the course of Jewish history...

  • with David Gottlieb
    Fridays, March 8 and 15, 10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

    The patriarch Isaac is probably the least studied and least understood major figure in the Bible. We will look at the arc of Isaac’s life, beginning with th...

  • 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 Rabbi David Rosenberg
    Friday, February 15, 10:45 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
    The b’rachah (blessing) is one of the great literary achievements of the rabbinic tradition. HaMotzi, Shehecheyanu, and other blessings have a broad appeal...

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