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Welcome to the largest Jewish Congregation in Alaska

Congregation Beth Sholom welcomes all visitors who wish to worship with us. We are a progressive congregation affiliated with Reform Judaism and are proud to be of service to those from diverse Jewish backgrounds. Please visit our About Us page for a detailed description of our values.

Our facilities are located in a peaceful, natural setting to enhance your spiritual experience. While our in-person services are limited, you can always watch livestream services on our YouTube channel: Alaska Judaism Media.

 

 

Friday Night Shabbat Services

Congregation Beth Sholom YouTube Channel: Alaska Judaism Media 

Anchorage Alaska

Join Us Every Friday

6 PM - 7 PM

Join us in person or online for Shabbat Services,
Subscribe to our YouTube Channel

 

 

A message from Rabbi Abram Goodstein

Dear Members and Friends of Congregation Beth Sholom:

 

      

In Genesis 23 we encounter the first death of an Adonai worshipper, Sarah. Abraham may have been the first to worship Adonai, but Sarah was the first to die as an Adonai Worshipper. Beyond the grief of his wife, Abraham is confronted with a problem. How do Adonai worshippers bury their loved ones? Thus Abraham must start what will be thousands of years of Jewish ritual practices around death. During the time of Abraham’s sojourn from the city of Ur to parts known and unknown, he is surrounded by something called ancestor cults - People who venerate their dead loved ones by worshipping them. There are objects used in Ancestor worship called Teraphs that are small carving or statues that represent a dead loved one, often they are prayed to as if a person is talking to the loved one it represents.  This is considered Idol worship by Adonai and so Abraham must discover a new practice, that is completely unprecedented from local traditions.

 

Unfortunately, Sarah died on Hittite land. Abraham has no choice but to bury her in the same land that she died, and the Torah provides us with a conversation between Abraham and the Hittite land owners. Abraham says, “I am a foreigner living among you; please give me a burial site on your land, so that I might bury my dead from before my face.” Now most ancient commentators have nothing to say about the “before my face” comment. But Modern commentators can’t stop talking about it.

 

The Hebrew is awkward and while ancient scholars have shrugged it off as just being unwieldly, modern scholars call this phrase a hidden polemic. Meaning Abraham is striving to say something that the Hittites will assumes refers to ancestor worship, but that Abraham doesn’t mean Ancestor Worship. He is saying that he will not see Sarah again, which is true, but what he also means is that he will not see Sarah as a Teraph. Which is perhaps a detail that the Hittites are meant to miss.

 

This narrative, that modern scholars offer, shows that Abraham must use some subterfuge in order to honor Adonai while not alienating himself from local customs. We know the Hittites don’t catch on because the conversation continues concerning the logistics of burying Sarah and not the lack of ancestor worship. What strikes me is how careful Abraham is to practice this new burial custom. Which will one day become the standard burial custom in Western Civilization. We don’t see Teraphs anymore. In fact this may be your first time hearing about them.

 

What I find so interesting is the way this lines up with the rest of the Torah. You might think of course it lines up, however just a few chapters earlier an angel of Adonai tells Hagar she needs to go back suffering by the hand of her mistress, the same Sarah. The Angel’s demand contradicts the book of Deuteronomy which says a slave who is mistreated must be protected and does not go back to their master.

 

Yet, the story of Abraham burying Sarah lines up perfectly with the rest of the Torah’s decree on not practicing ancestor worship. In Leviticus 19 it states “Do not turn to ghosts and do not inquire of familiar spirits, to be defiled by them: I Adonai, am your God.” In Deuteronomy 18 it states, “you shall declare before your God Adonai: I have not deposited any tithing with the dead.” In Isaiah it states, “The people who provoke My anger, who sit inside tombs and pass the night in secret places.”

 

All these Biblical quotes are referencing ancestor cult worship. And in all these quotes the Bible couldn’t be more clear - don’t do it. So, we have in Genesis 23 Abraham avoiding this practice as best he can among people who will not understand why he is avoiding it. But, the reason why our Bible says not do it so often, is because many Adonai worshippers were doing it. Abraham may have worked hard to start new rituals around the death of our loved ones, but it wasn’t enough to prevent all Adonai worshippers throughout history to stop. It turns out Ancestor Worship was a very influential practice that convinced many Adonai Worshipper into it.

 

Abraham modeled the appropriate behavior effectively, even utilizing a hidden polemic to follow it, and it didn’t work for some of our Jewish ancestors. I think this shows, we didn’t become Jewish all at once. We inherited a tradition that our ancestors often struggled with. I believe that the Judaism we experience today is a culmination of our ancestors trying and struggling with Judaism throughout history, and I also believe that Judaism is not done evolving.

 

I believe that if one grieving man on foreign land can change the course of death practices for all Western Civilization. Then a small Jewish congregation as far North as Alaska is capable of almost anything. It’s possible that our creativity and resolve for Judaism to thrive in Alaska can evolve Jewish practices for centuries to come. We can faithfully inherit the Jewish traditions given to us from Sinai while also making it our own. There is no better time for this than now as we open up from covid and remember the power that Jewish rituals and community have over our own healing.

 

 

Rabbi Abram Goodstein

New Year Message from the President of the Board, Stacey Saunders

Shana Tova!

I’m Stacey Saunders, President of Congregation Beth Sholom’s Board of Trustees.

I am happy and grateful to see so many of you in person after the past two years. I am also so happy to welcome those of you joining on our Livestream broadcast.

Since the COVID 19 pandemic, we often hear that we are living in the “new normal.” I believe that our sense of “normal” has always been evolving and changing. The pandemic accelerated changes that were already taking place.

We were already relying on technology for communication, work and school. With COVID 19 more of us learned to use videoconferencing and streaming services. For those of us who worked from home offices, what was once considered a luxury or perk became a necessity. Then even with the ability to return to workplaces, we began to reconsider what efficiency and productivity look like.

Does it only happen in an office away from home or can we get more done at our dining tables without a commute and with a refrigerator with lunch a few feet away? And with the required periods of physical separation we found ways to stay in touch in “Bubbles”, with masks, doing the 6-feet apart tango.

It was all painful, strained, but thought-provoking. For many, it caused us to reflect on what is important to us.

Read More...


Congregation Beth Sholom


Congregation Beth Sholom is a diverse and inclusive Jewish community, welcoming people of all ages, backgrounds, family structures, and worship styles.

 

   Join Us   

 

Buy a book. Give a gift.

CBS has a goal to receive 25 copies of The Torah: A Women's Commentary. Your generous gift adds modern and unique perspectives to the study of Torah at CBS. As an inclusive-inspired Congregation, CBS strives to provide literary content accessible to all. Won't you participate in this great opportunity?

Books can be purchased through the CCAR Press link below.

Mailing address for the book order:
Congregation Beth Sholom
7525 East Northern Lights Blvd
Anchorage, AK 99504

Click Here To Go To CCAR Press

Click Here to See Other Great Books For Your Home

Volunteer Opportunities

Want to make a difference?
Don't have much time?
Ready to join a committee?

This Community works because it is run by its members. Your participation expands Jewish thought, programming, education, and community throughout Alaska., and beyond?

Take a look at some of our current opportunities and if there is something you see needs doing, feel free to reach out to Rabbi Abram or Stacey Saunders, our Congregation President.

  • Library Committee
  • Food Bank
  • Social Action Committee
  • Website
  • Multimedia Committee (photography, videos, live-streaming, social media, website)
  • Gemilut Chasadim (Loving Kindness outreach committee)
  • many more opportunities; let us know your ideas and skills! There's room for everyone at every age.

Click here for more opportunities

Make a Donation



Congregation Beth Sholom operates on the goodwill of our members and the community. We welcome your generous donations.

Here are a few ways you can help.

  • Support our Shabbat Live-stream in memory or in honor of a special person or occasion, or simply to share the joy of Shabbat with the community.
  • Rabbi's Discretionary Fund
  • Jewish Education Center (JEC)
  • Scholarship Fund
  • Planned Giving

Click Here to make a donation

Services Online

Sun Mon Tues Wed Thu Fri Sat
 
  • 8:30am Midweek Morning Minyan (Zoom)
 
  • 5:34pm Candle Lighting
  • 6:00pm Friday Evening Shabbat Service (YouTube Live)
Lech L'cha
  • 10:30am Shabbat Morning Text Study
  • 6:36pm Havdalah
  • 7:30pm Havdalah in Anchorage (Facebook)
 
  • 8:30am Midweek Morning Minyan (Zoom)
  • 4:16pm Candle Lighting
  • 6:00pm Friday Evening Shabbat Service (YouTube Live)
Vayeira
  • 10:30am Shabbat Morning Text Study
  • 5:19pm Havdalah
  • 7:30pm Havdalah in Anchorage (Facebook)
 
  • 8:30am Midweek Morning Minyan (Zoom)
  • 7:00pm CBS Board Meetings (Call to confirm)
 
  • 4:00pm Candle Lighting
  • 6:00pm Friday Evening Shabbat Service (YouTube Live)
Chayei Sarah
  • 9:00am Judaism 101
  • 10:30am Shabbat Morning Text Study
  • 5:02pm Havdalah
  • 7:30pm Havdalah in Anchorage (Facebook)
 
  • 8:30am Midweek Morning Minyan (Zoom)
  • 3:46pm Candle Lighting
  • 6:00pm Friday Evening Shabbat Service (YouTube Live)
Tol'dot
  • 10:30am Shabbat Morning Text Study
  • 12:30pm Religious School for adults
  • 4:49pm Havdalah
  • 7:30pm Havdalah in Anchorage (Facebook)
 
  • 8:30am Midweek Morning Minyan (Zoom)
 
  • 3:36pm Candle Lighting
  • 6:00pm Friday Evening Shabbat Service (YouTube Live)
Vayeitzei
  • 10:30am Shabbat Morning Text Study
  • 4:38pm Havdalah
  • 7:30pm Havdalah in Anchorage (Facebook)

 

Mon, November 28 2022 4 Kislev 5783