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About Us

Congregation Beth Sholom serves the Greater Anchorage Community and we work hard to be both inclusive and welcoming. We invite all those who are seeking a connection to Jewish life and we encourage meaningful participation for everyone who wishes to be a part of our sacred community.

 

We are a progressive congregation that values diversity and welcomes all people regardless of religious background, race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, political affiliation, ability, age, sexual orientation, or gender identity. We pride our self on having a big tent that includes plenty of room for those who have been historically or institutionally marginalized or excluded from the Jewish community.

 

As the largest Jewish organization in the State of Alaska we are aware that how we carry ourselves and promote our values impacts our wider community in a substantial and influential way. We are determined to stay true to the visions of our ancestors while including the lessons of modernity and progressive ideals that promote a more peaceful and loving world.

 

Interfaith Families and People who are not Jewish

 

We are taught to love our neighbors and the strangers among us and we strive to do so in principle as well as action. We welcome interfaith couples as well as non-Jewish individuals and families. All people, regardless of their faith background, or lack thereof, are welcome to pray with us, study with us, share in holiday celebrations, and participate in lifecycle events. Interfaith couples and families are eligible for membership on the same basis as all other couples and families.

We encourage and support all those who desire to do so to participate in our worship, classes, and events regardless of knowledge of Hebrew or Judaism. For those interested in learning more about Judaism, we offer regular classes that are conducted in a relaxed environment with no expectations beyond a willingness to engage.

LGBTQ+

CBS welcomes all people, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, as full participants in all religious practices and in the entire community life of the congregation. We invite and welcome gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members, whether single or as a couple, married or not, with or without children, using the same membership categories applicable to all members.

LGBTQ+ members are encouraged to celebrate milestones in their lives, including anniversaries, by being called to the Torah for an aliyah. We celebrate with all members: gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and heterosexual, as their life cycle events are shared with the congregation. Our clergy joyfully officiate at same-sex weddings just as they do with the heterosexual ones.

Our staff, as a whole, is committed to raising synagogue-wide consciousness with regards to LGBTQ+ issues and inclusion.

 

A Brief History of CBS

Congregation Beth Sholom (CBS) came to be in Anchorage, AK on September 5, 1958 when 20 people gathered in Burt and Bobbie Goldberg’s home to welcome Shabbat and organize a synagogue (up until that point, chaplains on Elmendorf Air Force Base conducted the only Jewish services in the state).  The organizers wanted to establish a center of Jewish identity for their children.  “After quite a few heated discussions as to whether to affiliate with Reform or Conservative organizations,” said Bea Rose, first secretary for CBS, “the Congregation formally affiliated with the Reform Movement in May 1960, while it continued to meet in borrowed facilities.”

Initially, the religious school was held in an office building.  After the 1964 earthquake, which occurred on the first night of Passover, enough money was contributed by individuals and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations to build a synagogue.

Congregation Beth Sholom’s first home was built on donated land on 20th Avenue.  The members were enthusiastic about the new synagogue and used it regularly for Sabbath services and to hold religious school classes.  However, for larger gatherings such as High Holy Day services and Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, the Congregation still needed to borrow other facilities.

By 1982, membership had almost quadrupled and congregants began planning for a new, larger building.  On September 5, 1988, Congregation Beth Sholom commemorated its 30th anniversary by moving into a beautiful and spacious synagogue on a five-acre wooded lot located on East Northern Lights Boulevard.  The new facility was designed so that members could easily celebrate all occasions, large or small, in the synagogue.

Our Congregation is named Beth Sholom or “House of Peace.”  Here at CBS we try honor our founders by instilling in ourselves, and those we come in contact with, a feeling of fulfillment and wholeness that will grow into a broader sense of peace for our community, our nation, and the world as a whole.

Our Rabbinic History

Left to right: Rabbi Lester Polonsky, Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld, Rabbi Johanna Hershenson, Rabbi Fred Wenger and Rabbi Michael Oblath.

Links to Articles About Jewish History in Alaska

Alaska Dispatch Article by Yereth Rosen "Alaska's Jewish Community Predates US Settlement"

The Jews of Alaska by Gerhard Falk

Alaskan Jews trying to connect by Tamar M. Sternthal, Boston Jewish Advocate

Sanctuary: Alaska, the Nazis, and the Jews The forgotten story of Alaska's own confrontation with the Holocaust.  A four-part series. May 16-19, 1999.

Havdalah shared at Honeybee Lake in Willow, Alaska.

Havdallah August 1st

This Havdalah is near Honeybee Lake in Willow.

Posted by Congregation Beth Sholom, Anchorage Alaska on Saturday, August 1, 2020
Thu, October 22 2020 4 Cheshvan 5781