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Message from President - Dorrit Lowsen

Dear Friends,

As I write this it is high summer, but by the time you’re reading it, your kids will be heading back to school, you’ll be settling back into your fall routines after summer vacations, and High Holidays will be coming up fast (very fast because they’re early this year!). You’ve already received the messages from the office that we’re trying something a little different this year. For the past few years, I hope you’ve noticed members of the Board wearing nametags in the building. Starting with High Holidays this year, we’ve decided to get nametags for everyone. As those of us of a certain age know from a certain TV bar, a community is a place “where everybody knows your name ♫”.  I will be the first to admit, I am terrible (really, terrible!) at remembering names, but it doesn’t mean I don’t like you and don’t want to greet you by yours. Nametags will help us get to know each other a little bit better when we maybe see each other just often enough to know we’ve exchanged names before, but not quite often enough to always remember every name. We’ll use them in lieu of tickets for High Holidays, but our hope is that you’ll wear them in the building so when we see you and we know we know you, we can also greet you by name, even when our memory (or at least mine!) isn’t perfect.

Names are, of course, just one aspect of connection, meaning, and healing. It has been a joy to see Beth El come roaring back to life this year with a full range of programming back in the building while continuing to offer some hybrid options for those that find it easier or more comfortable to participate remotely. We start the 2023-24 year off full of hope, with a new Religious School Director, a fully staffed office, all new HVAC units to keep us comfortable, and more. But whether it is mah jong, or Friday night services; Religious School or bagels & banter; brilliantly moderated current events discussions or the Reel Abilities Film Festival; Tot Shabbat or Sip & Schmooze that keep you coming to Beth El, it takes money to take care of our staff, keep the building running smoothly, and continue offering the programming you love. Our Free Will Dues system ensures everyone who wants to be a member of Beth El can do so in a way that is financially comfortable for them, but it also means dues alone are not enough to fully fund a budget that supports the building, staffing levels, and programming you, our members, expect. Preschool tuition and rental of the building to outside groups used to cover a significant portion of the difference, but both, while showing signs of recovery, continue to lag well behind pre-pandemic levels.

Our Mission and Values reminds us that Together, we are Beth El. That’s why I have made a commitment to this year’s Kol Nidre Appeal and I am asking each of you to dig deep and do the same to help us meet our $60,000 goal. Together, we are Beth El, and together we can help Beth El meet its mission to be a sacred Jewish community for all who seek connection, meaning, and healing.

Dorrit Lowsen

Message from Rabbi David Spinrad

I have been reflecting on 5783 in preparation for 5784 and thinking about the ways in the past year we fulfilled our Mission to be “a sacred Jewish community for all who seek connection meaning, and healing” through our six core Vales: chesed/lovingkindness, mishpacha/family, masoret/tradition, chochmah/wisdom, Yisrael/Israel, and tzedek/justice. In 5784, I hope and pray and plan to build on what we’ve achieved, and remain a devoted partner to you. Through the lens of these six values, it is my honor to share congregational highlights with you:

Chesed/Lovingkindness: Chesed is the covenantal love that binds us together. It reveals itself when we demonstrate the responsibility we share for one another and for the whole of our community. Our Caring Congregation Community remains the pinnacle embodiment of our primary congregational value, hosting Shiva minyanim, providing visits, phone calls, condolence cards, and gift baskets during times of illness and loss.

In our religious school, former Director of Education Rabbi Romano shared this example of chesed: “In the presence of his 7th grade peers, a student shared that his friends were not being nice to him at school. One of his classmates said with complete seriousness and clarity, ‘Those people are not your friends. You don’t need them in your life. You deserve better.’ This sentiment was echoed by everyone in the room. It was clear to me the depth of loyalty and care that these students have for each other. I learned they will always be there for each other and have each other’s backs.”

Mishpacha/Family: Beth El Babies is a newly-formed group that provides families with very young children opportunities to gather in a social setting to connect, share stories, and enjoy coffee and donuts together. Both Beth El Babies and Shalom Chaverim – a program that monthly brings together parents with children ages 3-5 for a fun, holiday-related program –exemplify the success that can happen when members of our congregational family identify unmet needs and take steps to fulfill them.

Another growing segment in our congregational community is the independent Next Gen group. These post-college/pre-family young adults frequently join us for Friday night services and enjoy social outings together.

B’nei mitzvah remain core to our collective congregational identity, and 5783 brought new opportunities to reflect and grow as a community. With a greater understanding of gender diversity and expansiveness, we celebrated our first “b’mitzvah” this year, becoming a more inclusive community by removing Hebrew’s gender binary. Although this is only a small step, it is a significant one.

We also host Tzelem, a thriving middle school group for Beth El students and in the DC/NoVa area who identify as LGBTQ+, making space also for the parents of these middle schoolers to come together to support one another in their family journeys.

Our Disability Inclusion Committee continues to create an inclusive community that embodies our Mission. Beth El again hosted a screening from the ReelAbilities Film Festival and we held our annual Jewish Disabilities and Inclusion Shabbat. Speakers this year spoke about hidden disabilities.

Cantor Kaufman founded our new Family Choir, inviting congregants of all ages to join together to bring music and joy into our lives. We enjoyed their voices on Yom Kippur during Ne’ilah, during the special Shabbat Chanukah service, and at the farewell service for Rabbi Romano.

In terms of fully embodying this value, we have room to grow in our commitment to becoming an antiracist congregation. There are concrete steps we can take to evaluate ourselves and to become a more racially equitable and inclusive Home of God.

Masoret/Tradition: As a Reform congregation, we dwell in the positive tension between tradition and innovation. This manifests in both our religious practices and congregational customs. Examples abound: Anshei Mitzvah (also known as “adult b’nei mitzvah”) was a congregational highlight. Over the course of 14, biweekly sessions, our cohort of eight individuals learned to chant Torah, explored biblical authorship and Torah composition, gained deeper understanding of the siddur, and learned to prepare and present Divrei Torah.

Anchored by Gilah Goldsmith, Shabbat morning Torah study remains a congregational jewel. Lisa Sheldone is not only a core member of our Torah study community, as our adult Hebrew teachers, she continues to introduce adults to the “lashon kodesh,” the Hebrew language.

Religious school highlights included the 4th grade visit to Beth El’s Home of Peace Cemetery to experience the mitzvah of burying sacred texts as well as a trip to the Ohev Sholom Mikveh in DC. At the mikveh, our students learned not only about immersion for typical events such as Conversion, but also its power to mark other important moments in our Jewish lives.

Our 2023 Confirmation Class led us in an inspiring Confirmation service. They not only chanted the 10 Commandments – a Shavuot tradition – they thoughtfully spoke on their religious beliefs and their commitments as Jews.

Our revamped and revitalized 2nd Night Passover Seder was again a success, as we welcomed over 200 people to our shared table. Thanks to wonderful, collaborative efforts between lay leaders, our professional team, and clergy, we were able to create an inclusive, affordable, and meaningful congregational Seder for all ages.

Of special note, for the first time since prior to the pandemic, we were strengthened by the return of the High Holiday Congregational Choir. As they lifted their voices, they raised our spirits.

Led by Brotherhood President Matthew Mutterperl, Beth El Mother’s Day Brunch remains a congregational staple even as we consider creating a more inclusive congregation that honors mothers and remains cognizant that not all family compositions include individuals who identify as women. Additionally, we are ever-grateful for the Brotherhood’s continued support of our religious school through their leadership of the Purim Carnival, the annual picnic, and more.

As it has for a generation, the annual Rhoda Goldman Memorial Book Sale remains not only a valued fundraiser but a Beth El cultural tradition. At the same time, moving it from MLK Weekend to President’s Weekend allowed Beth El to better fulfill our value of tzedek by honoring the life and legacy of Dr. King with a communal day of service.

Chochmah/Wisdom: In 2022-23, Beth El hosted wonderful programs and welcomed terrific speakers who shared their wisdom with us. Among them, these bear mention: We welcomed Rabbi Barry Block, editor of the CCAR Press Social Justice Torah Commentary, and Commentary contributor Rabbi Lauren Tuchman for wide-ranging conversation on the urgency of our current moment through the lens of the Jewish imperative to strive to repair our broken world.

The Beth El Women of Reform Judaism hosted Representative Jamie Raskin and Professor Deborah Tannen for the annual Book and Author event, attracting over 200 attendees for rousing discussions of Rep. Raskin’s Unthinkable: Trauma, Truth, and the Trials of American Democracy and Professor Tannen’s Finding My Father.

 Coinciding with the remembrance of Kristallnacht, we hosted Rabbi W. Jack Romberg as our Shabbat rabbi-in-residence. The author of A Doorway to Heroism, Rabbi Romberg spoke of his heroic uncle Richard Stern, a German Jew who fought for the Germans in World War I. As Hitler and Nazism ascended during the 1930s, Mr. Stern courageously protested against the Nazis and faced antisemitic persecution before emigrating to the United States after Kristallnacht. Once establishing U.S. citizenship, the now middle-aged Stern enlisted in the U.S. Army, fought against the Nazis in the European Theater, and earned the Silver Star for heroism.

A highlight of our religious school calendar was an interfaith gathering of clergy and laity of many faiths – Islam, Episcopalian, Baptist, Bahai, and Jain. Each spoke from their respective traditions in order to raise up the many religious principles we share.

Finally, we grew in wisdom musically as Cantor Kaufman’s annual concert welcomed the magnificent Elana Arian. She shared her beautiful soul through music, leading us in song and prayer on Friday evening, at the Saturday evening Cantor’s Concert, and with our children in the religious school on Sunday.

Yisrael/Israel: Our devotion to congregational engagement with Israel remains steadfast, as does our effort to maintain integrity as we navigate Israel’s modern complexities. Led by Len Rubinstein, our Israel Committee continues to emerge as a source of congregational pride. During the past year, the Committee organized several speaker events – both in-person and online – on subjects pertaining to the Israeli elections, Israel’s current political crossroads, and Israel’s 75th birthday.

Last, I eagerly anticipate our congregational Adult Israel Adventure scheduled for October, 2023. Following Sukkot, we will travel to Israel for 12 unforgettable days.

Tzedek/Justice: We accept responsibility to repair our unjust world.

Among our six congregational values, we have the most room for growth in tzedek/justice While we maintain individual commitments to local organizations and projects such as Refugee Assistance, Carpenter’s Shelter, ALIVE!, and the Alexandria Community Remembrance Project, our absence of a social action committee hampers Beth El’s ability to organize and maintain significant congregational initiatives. I worry that a lack of focused efforts fosters a culture in which tzedek is a value we profess but are not yet pursuing to the best of our ability.

Despite the absence of larger, visible congregational initiatives, in 2022-23 I am proud of several smaller efforts. In addition to my appreciation of those who gave of themselves to the organizations and efforts listed above, our religious school’s MLK Jr. Day of Service beautifully embodied tzedek. I am thankful that our congregation no longer holds religious school on the Sunday of MLK Weekend and that our leadership was amenable to moving the annual Rhoda Goldman Memorial Book Sale to President’s Day Weekend.

Instead, on MLK Day we convened a Day of Service, raising $1500 for Undies for Everyone and packed bags for children so that 100 students will have access to clean underwear through the Boys and Girls Club of Alexandria. Additionally, on the MLK Day of Service we received donations from congregants and created over 200 care kits and tied over 100 blankets. Many care kits went home with families and were given directly to people experiencing homelessness that they encountered in their daily life. The rest were given out at McPherson Park.

In 5784, may we be a sacred, Jewish community for all who seek connection meaning, and healing and may be a light unto the nations by embodying the Jewish values of chesed, mishpacha, masoret, chochmah, Yisrael and tzedek. Shanah tovah.

High Holiday Tickets

2023/5784 High Holiday Tickets

If you are a member at Beth El Hebrew Congregation you will not need a ticket for High Holiday Services. When you arrive you will pick up your name tag and when you leave you will place your name tag in the provided container. If you forget don't worry we will always have a list of members.

If you did not order a name tag, don't worry we ordered one for you, however if you are able to contribute to the cost of making name tags for all members please do so below. In addition please note that even if you ordered a name tag for your adult children you will still need to purchase a family member ticket for them. 

We are still asking that our members let us know what services and programs they plan to attend so that we can have proper seating and security.
Please contribute $5.00 per person in your membership for a name tag. If you have already contributed Thank You!
   9/15 8:00pm - Erev Rosh Hashanah
   9/16 10:00am - Rosh Hashanah
   9/16 2:00pm - Rosh Hashanah Family
   9/16 4:00pm - Tashlich
   9/24 8:00pm - Kol Nidre
   9/25 10:00am - Yom Kippur
   9/25 2:00pm - Yom Kippur Family
   9/25 3:30pm - Yom Kippur Afternoon Panel Discussion
   9/25 5:00pm - Yizkor
   9/25 6:00pm - Ne'ilah
We are all excited about the upcoming High Holidays and the year ahead. The Kol Nidre Appeal is a large part of our budget and we are hoping to exceed our goals.   We have three goals for this appeal.  
1. We seek 100% participation.
2. As a community, we seek to raise a minimum of $60,000.  
3. We ask all families to consider increasing their support.

Every contribution makes a difference!


 Kol Nidre Pledge

We are all excited about the upcoming High Holidays and the year ahead. The Kol Nidre Appeal is a large part of our budget and we are hoping to exceed our goals.
We have three goals for this appeal. 
1. We seek 100% participation. If you can give $18, $1,800, or $18,000, every donation counts.
2. As a community, we seek to raise a minimum of $60,000, higher than last year's goal of $50,000.  
3. We ask all families to consider increasing their support, every contribution makes a difference.


Handicapped Parking and Seating Request

Please use this form if you need handicapped parking or seating.  If you log in before using this form, your contact info will autofill in for you.
Please check box(es) to request parking and/or seating.
Best one to reach you at if we have questions
Best one to reach you at if we have questions


Thu, September 21 2023 6 Tishrei 5784