Beth Israel observes 40th year, welcomes rabbi, Hanukkah Synagogue puts emphasis on attracting young people


Beth Israel Congregation in Owings Mills is celebrating more than Hanukkah this week -- a new rabbi will be officially installed Sunday at the congregation, which is celebrating is 40th anniversary this year.

Rabbi Jay R. Goldstein, 38, who served at Temple B'nai Abraham in Meriden, Conn., for 12 years and now lives in Owings Mills with his wife and three children, started leading the congregation in August.

He said he was drawn by Beth Israel's emphasis on attracting young people, as well as its older members with a history of involvement in Jewish life.

"We want to be a family-friendly synagogue," he said, adding that the congregation is open to intermarried couples.

"My primary goal is to get to know as many of the members as possible, on a pastoral and personal basis."

The Conservative synagogue was founded by 10 couples from the Liberty Road area in 1956. It was in Randallstown for 38 years and, after losing hundreds of members in the late 1980s, moved to its current location on Crondall Lane in 1994.

In its new neighborhood, at the heart of an area of high growth for the Baltimore Jewish community, Beth Israel hopes to persuade unaffiliated young couples to make a lasting religious commitment.

Almost 200 families have joined the synagogue since the move, bringing membership to more than 800 households.

"You have to do more today, particularly regarding social functions, to attract people," said Beth Israel's president, Ted Schweitzer.

"We're trying to create commitments that were more natural in the older generations."

Goldstein grew up in the Chicago area and majored in Jewish studies at the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

He received his master's degree in theology and was ordained at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.

Part of his rabbinical training was spending a year in Israel. His experience in 1980-1981 gave him a firsthand look at animosity among Jewish sects and between Jews and Palestinians.

For example, the chief rabbi of Jerusalem denied him and other Conservative rabbinical students certification to perform circumcisions, despite their training, because they were not Orthodox Jews.

Goldstein also recalled attending a wedding in Israel where a PLO guerrilla tossed a hand grenade into the crowd, killing an Arab waiter.

In 1995, Goldstein was among the first American rabbis to visit Jordan.

The installation at 11 a.m. Sunday will be performed by Rabbi RTC David Lincoln, who led the congregation attended by Goldstein when he was a teen-ager in Wilmette, Ill.

Lincoln will present Goldstein with a kiddush, or holy, cup symbolizing his role as spiritual leader. The program will include music by religious school students, the adult choir and Cantor Kimberly Komrad.

Komrad said she and Goldstein share many practices and philosophies because they both trained at the Jewish Theological Seminary.

"He's very bright and speaks well on his feet," Komrad said. "His sermons are both insightful and filled with humor."

Beth Israel recently completed a $1.8 million transformation of part of a former warehouse into a sanctuary, offices, preschool and Hebrew school.

The synagogue hopes to raise $1.6 million more to add a small chapel, lobby, banquet hall and auditorium.

Pub Date: 12/06/96

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