Four congregations were accepted into the Union of American Hebrew Congregations at its recent Board of Trustees meeting, bringing the total number affiliated with the Reform Movement to 906. The UAHC, the umbrella organization for Reform synagogues, continues its unprecedented growth, having accepted eleven congregations over the past twelve months.
The new member congregations range in size from 50 members to nearly 500, and are located in communities from Georgia to California. With UAHC membership, all will be able to participate in the broad community of North American Reform Judaism, the largest and fastest-growing Jewish movement on the continent. The congregations will have access to innovative UAHC worship programming, youth camps, adult retreats, music programs, and other exciting opportunities.
"While each congregation in the Union is unique, with different histories, needs, and personality, every UAHC congregation shares a commitment to the ideals and visions of the Reform Movement," said Rabbi Peter Schaktman, Director of the UAHC's Department of Small and New Congregations. "Each also recognizes the value to their members of being part of a Movement that brings new ideas, visions and vitality to North American Judaism." The new congregations are:
Congregation Beth Israel, Colleyville, TX
Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, TX, located outside of Fort Worth, is in just its second year of existence. With more than 50 member families, it already boasts a religious school with more than 65 students, a Sisterhood and Brotherhood, a Torah study program, and an adult social club. This past October it unveiled the plans for its brand-new synagogue building, which its members hope will house their sanctuary and religious school for generations to come.
"By joining the Union, Beth Israel can gain exposure to new developments in liturgy, music, and education," said Anna Eisen, president of Beth Israel, "Union membership will also help us welcome new, interfaith families."
Temple Beth Tikvah, Fullerton, CA
Temple Beth Tikvah of Fullerton, which contains 250 member households, has served the Reform Jews of northern Orange County, CA since 1964. Affiliated with the Union at its inception, its declining membership caused it to break away in 1991. As a solution to its membership problem, it undertook a unique initiative, and twinned itself with Adat Ari, a local Conservative temple. The two congregations now share worship space and several programs, and offer both Reform and Conservative services during the High Holy Days and Shabbat. "We're very excited to become members of the Union again," said Lila Pesner, president of Beth Tikvah. "Now, we can better work toward creating a strong, vibrant community for our congregants."
Temple Beth Tikvah, Roswell, GA
It has been 13 years since 30 families residing in the Atlanta area-an area with a rich and vibrant Jewish community-came together to create Temple Beth Tikvah of Roswell. Since then, the membership of the synagogue has ballooned to nearly 450 households, and enrollment in the religious school has swelled to more than 300 children. Organized as a liberal congregation with traditional leanings, the congregation strives to encourage a high degree of ritual observance in its members and models its worship on the pattern of Reform and Progressive Judaism in Germany and the United Kingdom.
"Temple Beth Tikvah's desire to join the UAHC is as old as the synagogue itself," said Rabbi Donald Tam, who has served the synagogue since its founding. "We feel we have something to give to Reform Judaism that can add not only to its depth and its richness, but strengthen its ability to survive bound to the historical continuity of the Jewish people."
Temple B'nai Moshe, La Salle, IL
Temple B'nai Moshe was organized and chartered in 1924 by a group of Orthodox Jews in La Salle, IL. Over the years, the congregation evolved into a Reform group, although its membership has remained constant, at around 30 families, since its inception. With Union membership, B'nai Moshe will not only be able to use the Reform seminary's student rabbi program, but will also benefit from the Union's Department of Small and New Congregations, which provides help to congregations with under 250 members.