Congregation Beth Chaverim’s 30th anniversary

by | Jun 21, 2012 | Other News

Beth ChaverimA grateful founding rabbi, I shall always remember and cherish the transforming birth of what we affectionately called, “the baby.” Much love and tenderness has been bestowed upon the fast-growing “baby,” remaining the newest synagogue in Hampton Roads and the only Reform Jewish temple in Virginia Beach.

The congregation’s name, “Beth Chaverim,” was deliberately chosen to reflect the very essence of what we wanted our temple to be, an embracing “House of Friends,” whose birth would always be justified by trying harder than others to create a loving and accepting Jewish home for those choosing to enter our gates and hearts. Admittedly, we have also learned that we are only human and that the perfect vision of our innocent youth was bound to be challenged by a complex and, at times, trying reality.

It is though beyond doubt that our beloved Beth Chaverim has generated multiple blessings onto its immediate congregational family, the larger Jewish community and the general one with interfaith bonds of historical significance. For our first three years we were hosted by the now Heritage United Methodist Church, followed for 10 years (1985–1995) at the Catholic Church of the Ascension, at that time the only such Jewish-Catholic relationship in the world! While at the church I invited in 1993 Muslims to join in the first Jewish-Muslim joint prayer in Hampton Roads, celebrating the beginning of the peace process in the Middle East. Beth Chaverim is currently home to two African American churches, New Jerusalem Ministries led by Dr. Veronica Coleman and Emmanuel Way of the Cross Church led by Bishop Fred E. Hill. Another giant breakthrough! Peace by Piece by Edmarc Hospice For Children and Jewish Family Service of Tidewater also meets here, along with Boy Scouts Troop #488 that we sponsor.

I profoundly thank you, founding president Dr. Jerry and Paula Levy, and all members of our founding generation, for being such an indispensable part of our noble endeavors and dreams, making possible our sacred work in progress. Your faithful participation has nourished and sustained the miracle called Beth Chaverim, a caring, courageous and creative congregation! Our remarkable Bingo Bunch has made a critical contribution. Our inspiring additions in 2006 of the Marilyn and Marvin Simon Family Sanctuary and the Religious School wing have made a significant difference, allowing us to host the notable Yom Ha’Shoah gathering sponsored by the Holocaust Commission of the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater.

How appropriate and symbolic that our first “home-grown” rabbi, Sam Rose, Lora’s son, was ordained on June 4, 2012 in Cincinnati, Ohio, at my alma mater, the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, from which I was ordained 38 years ago. We are proud of him, his wife Andrea, Lora and the entire family. Rabbi Rose will serve at Temple Beth Israel in Austin, Texas.

A heartfelt Mazel Tov and L’Chaim— To life for a great past and even a greater future as we continue to go and grow from strength to strength. My beloved wife Jennifer, soul-mate and helpmate, founding rebbitzen, founding president Dr. Jerry Levy and wife Paula, president Nate Rubin and wife Janet, immediate past-president Chris Ohlstein and husband Dr. Jim, along with past-president Dr. Marty Snyder and wife Judi, join me in offering heartfelt gratitude on truly a grand Simcha celebration of a very special “baby.”

by Rabbi Israel Zoberman
Dr. Israel Zoberman is the founding rabbi of Congregation Beth Chaverim.