Shabbat at Beth Israel Synagogue is a day of restful gathering, a day of joy and contemplation, prayer, learning and connection. Visit with long-time friends, cultivate new friendships, share Jewish foods and Jewish music in a traditional yet contemporary space. Engage in intellectual and spiritual discussions about Torah and its impact on our modern day-to-day lives. Celebrate meaningful moments of joy, accomplishment, or spiritual growth, and find communal embrace and support during times of loneliness, sadness or loss. Allow us to be your sacred home-away-from home, rooted in compassion, caring and comfort. Come home to weekly Shabbat programming, delicious challah and decadent Shabbat meals. We're waiting for you to become a part of our family at Beth Israel!
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Weekly Shabbat Services and special programs
At Beth Israel, our weekly Shabbat services are a bedrock of community, but we also celebrate all major Jewish Holidays and life-cycle events together as well as special programs for days of mourning and remembrance. B'nai Mitzvot and High Holidays are some of our most joyful and well-attended events. Yizkor services are offered four times annually in our sanctuary. Special memorial programs, funerals, annual kever avot and book burial programs are conducted at our local Jewish cemetery. Outdoor spaces and indoor casual social spaces are used for innovative spiritual and social programs and places for congregants to hang out, meet a friend, read a book, grab a cup of tea or coffee, and enjoy your new home-away-from-home.
At Beth Israel, members play an active role in communal preparations for the High Holiday season. Beginning at Rosh Chodesh Elul, our community publishes daily reflections on forgiveness and self-improvement with daily "Elul Illuminations" written by our members. We begin to hear the sounds of the shofar each day leading up to Rosh Hashanah. Congregants volunteer to help to prepare ritual items and spaces for our Holiest Holidays, and collaborate with our Rabbi, Education Director, and Cantor to produce innovative selichot and high holiday prayer services, rituals, and study sessions leading up to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
For over 100 years Jews have gathered in our beautiful sacred spaces to celebrate the Jewish New Year at Beth Israel. Joy and the sweetness of spiritual renewal are our primary themes. In recent years the Holiday has been enhanced with annual gift bags of apples, honey, and rugelach to each congregant, holiday baking in our Kosher kitchen, and multiple spiritual programs and opportunities for study, learning and celebration of the new Jewish Year with clergy, friends, and family. Together we gather on two days to celebrate and hear the startling Shofar Blasts that call us into an awareness of who we can become in the new year. On the afternoon of the first day we gather at the Roanoke river for a casual Tashlich and shofar blowing ritual. The second day of Rosh Hashanah worship typically begins a little later and is reserved for innovative, alternative and/or special programming. We also offer innovative and fun childrens' programming for Rosh Hashanah. Our regular challah loaves are replaced by round challahs throughout the High Holiday season.
We revere our sacred and beautiful Torah scrolls and each one has its own story to tell. At Kol Nidre they are all adorned in White Torah Mantles and newly polished silver breastplates, crowns, and finials. Before sunset on Kol Nidrei, we remove all six Torahs from the sacred ark and participate in a formal processional among the congregation. Special volunteers are honored each year to participate in the processional by carrying one of the Torahs. This meaningful service is punctuated by the deeply moving Kol Nidrei prayer chanted by the Cantor in preparation for the sacred Yom Kippur service the following day.
Yom Kippur is the holiest holiday on our Jewish calendar, and services are typically led by our clergy team of Rabbi and Cantor. Morning Services as well as afternoon Minchah and Neilah Services are offered. Spend the whole day with us if it makes your Fast day more meaningful, including using our sacred spaces during the break between Yom Kippur services for napping, visiting, or studying. The final closing of the ark at sunset concludes with a special and innovative glowlight-havdalah enjoyed by congregants of all ages. In some years we offer an in-person Break-the-Fast meal and in other years we offer a Grab-N-Go Break-the-Fast meals for quick replenishment and further post-holiday enjoyment. Children's programming and Yom Kippur services are also offered at the convenience of families with children.
The local Minhag in our community is to begin anticipating Joy and building the frame of our sukkah even before Yom Kippur. After Yom Kippur, the s'chach (roof material) is added to turn the frame into a Kosher Sukkah which our Religious school children and families decorate with traditional sukkot festival decorations. Lulav sets may be purchased or borrowed from the shul, and many festive meals, services, study sessions and social gatherings are held in the Sukkah throughout the eight-day festival. Some of our holiday ritual services are held outside, and some are held in our beautiful sanctuary. All meals are held in the sukkah whenever weather permits.
Shemini Atzeret and simchat Torah
Shemini Atzeret services continue our Festive season of Joy with joyful Hallel prayers followed by a solemn Yizkor Memorial service. Later that night, our Erev Simchat Torah Services are typically held outside after a Kosher Deli Meal in the Sukkah, and typically involve meaningful socializing, raucous dancing with our Torahs and children joining in the singing and dancing with playful stuffed Toy Torahs. The Dancing continues the following day with our final Hakafot, joyfully joining together to sing and celebrate, and enjoying one final communal holiday meal in the Sukkah.
At the darkest time of the secular calendar year, our community gathers to light the holiday menorah for eight consecutive days. Our community celebrates Chanukkah in a number of different ways, from children's arts and crafts during religious school programming, to communal baking of latkes (fried potatoes), rugelach (sweet cinnamon pastries) and sufganiot (Jewish doughnuts), Each year the season is punctuated with a large communal holiday party, festive meal, children's games, and communal menorah lighting.
We celebrate Tu B'Shevat as our "New Year Festival for Trees" aka the "Birthday for Trees." In Biblical days this was an agricultural festival marking a cutoff for calculating the age of trees and tithes and their produce. In contemporary times the holiday is an annual day in which we cultivate ecological awareness, gratitude and activism especially for trees, the natural earth, and the produce and bounty of both. Often we gather for a special festive meal and Tu'B'Shevat seder to focus community reflection and commitment to these issues.
One of our most bizarre, joyful, and carnival-esque festivals, Purim celebrates the survival of a small band of Jews in the land of Persia in Biblical days, as recorded in the Biblical book of Esther. We typically celebrate with theatrical plays which parody the story of Esther and poke fun at ourselves, and we gather each year for a Purim palooza/costume carnival and Public reading of the Megillah scroll of Esther. Festive eating and drinking are a major part of the joy of this festiveal and we celebrate by sending shalach manot - packages of cooked goods to our friends and fellow congregants, and by giving gifts of Tzedakah to those experiencing situations of poverty or suffering.
Each Year we celebrate our freedom from slavery in an eight day festival in which we rid our homes of leavened products and eat a special and sacred bread called "matzah", rituals which are biblically commanded for the Jewish people. Families typical gather in their homes for ritual meals called "Passover Seders," and the community frequently gathers together at the synagogue for one or more sacred meals and/or seders during this time.
We help with access and advice for locating kosher-for-Passover foods, especially matzah-based products, and serve as an intermediary for the sale of Chametz (leavened products) for members and for our synagogue's Kosher kitchen. Formal Passover services are held in the sanctuary including Passover Yizkor services on the final day of Passover.
The international community marks the liberation of Auschwitz on January 27th each year but the American Jewish community observes Yom HaSHoah along with Israel each year on the 27th day of Nisan (unless it falls on Shabbat in which case it is commemorated the following day). Yom HaShoah commemorates the six million Jewish lives lost in the Shoah each year. Typically we gather for a solemn ceremony of remembrance and memorializing as we light candles and listen to the testimony of survivors and/or their family. Services include the chanting of our sacred El Maley Rachamim prayer along with Mourners Kaddish.
Shavuot at Beth Israel is a festival and celebration and re-enactment of standing at Sinai to receive spiritual revelation and receipt of our sacred Torah. It is a time of elevated Torah study and festive eating (especially dairy products like blintzes, kugels, and Cheesecake). Two days of morning religious services are held on Festival mornings, and in some years we hold a fun all-night-marathon Torah study session called "Leil Tikkun Shavuot" on the night before the first morning service. During that Tikkun, many congregants and clergy pitch in to contribute a Torah teaching on the night before leading right up to the morning service in which the Aseret HaDibrot (Ten Commandments) are read from the Torah.