About The Temple

History
Temple Beth Emeth V'Ohr Progressive Shaari Zedek is quite a long name for a small congregation. In English, the temple's name is House of Truth and Light Progressive Gates of Prayer. The temple was started in 1908 by a woman named Hannah Hirsch who wanted her children to have a good Jewish education. With the help of some of her neighbors, she started the first Reform Jewish religious school in Flatbush.

Of course, the group didn't have a regular building right from the start, nor were they a formal congregation. They were just a group of thirty-something families teaching their children about the history of the Jews -- with classes held at a local bakery. However, this couldn't go on forever, so Mrs. Hirsch held a meeting to discuss forming a congregation. With help from donations that were used for a building fund, the group established Temple Beth Emeth of Flatbush. They called Rabbi Samuel J. Levinson in Yonkers, NY and asked him to lead the congregation. He happily accepted because it meant returning to his hometown, Brooklyn.

However, the congregation still did not have a permanent home. Rabbi Levinson launched a campaign to develop a permanent building. After raising enough money, they searched for a site. The first site they chose was ideal, but they weren't allowed to a build any sort of religious building there. The second, on the southeast corner of Marlborough Road and Church Avenue, was cheaper than the first and they were allowed to build there. The cornerstone was laid on July 30th, 1913. The new temple was dedicated on the eve of Rosh Hashanah in 1914… so our building will be celebrating its 100th birthday next September.

Today
For over 30 years, the Temple was led by Rabbi William Kloner, who shepherded the congregation through the neighborhood's demographic changes and arranged several mergers to help sustain the community. When he was unable to continue as the spiritual leader of Beth Emeth in 2010 (he is now the Rabbi Emeritus), the congregation searched for a new rabbi. Rabbi Heidi Hoover, who had served the community for five years as a rabbinic intern and interim rabbi, was officially named as Rabbi of the congregation in June of 2011.

These days, the congregation is not as large as it once was. The ceiling and roof are being repaired, and the seats are a little creaky. However, the membership has increased and our Religious School classes are filled with eager youngsters. Most importantly, though, the people in the temple keep it alive. We have fun events, some just on the spur of the moment, and our planned events are always interesting. And, of course, when we pray together in the sanctuary on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings, the sanctuary is beautiful. It's always beautiful, but our voices, joining together and weaving through melodies like birdsong, make it eternal and unearthly-- just as it should be.
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