Temple Beth El started in 1950 as an initiative of a group of Jewish residents of the area who were looking for a place to meet and worship. At that time the only temples in the community were Orthodox or Conservative. This group of nearly 50 families decided to create a Reform congregation. Services were held in the American Legion Hall in Closter, NJ and a year later, when a religious school was needed, they used the First Congregational Church in Haworth. As time went on, other facets of congregational life developed. Soon there was Sisterhood and a Men’s Club, in addition to Religious School, Kindergarten, Nursery School and the monthly bulletin. As the congregation grew in numbers, the need for a permanent home, a Temple of their own, became more and more urgent. After thorough investigation a proper site was found. The present location of Temple Beth El had become available, a two acre piece of property priced at $3,000.
On November 29, 1953, three years after the initial founding of the congregation, dedication and groundbreaking ceremonies were held at the site. It took tremendous efforts of organizing and raising the funds needed for the building of the Temple. On September 8, 1957, the first physical structure of Temple Beth El was officially dedicated and the first High Holiday Services in the building were performed under the leadership of Rabbi Pines on September 27, 1957. Rabbi Leonard Kravitz, now a professor at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institution of Religion, was our Rabbi for 10 years during the 1960s.
Our first expansion, in 1969, doubled our facility. In the late 90’s, we needed to expand again and began the process which led to a new master plan for our facility. Phase 1 of that plan was completed in the fall of 2004, providing a new chapel/library and eight new classrooms along with an expanded parking lot and a new playground. Within a few years the sanctuary, lobby, offices and social hall spaces will also undergo a major renovation bringing our physical plant in line with our spiritual and communal vision.
Temple Beth El grew tremendously over the last four decades under the leadership of Rabbi Fred Pomerantz, who served the congregation for over thirty years, retiring to become Rabbi Emeritus in 2004. The congregation was also ably served by long time Cantor Emeritus Shlomo Bar Nissim. In addition to excellent lay leadership, the Temple is now guided and assisted by its current clergy, Rabbi David S. Widzer and Student Cantor Julie Womack, with support from Music Director/Organist Jim Rensink, Director of Education, Rabbi Beth Kramer-Mazer who directs the Religious and Nursery Schools.