History & Mission
Welcome to Beth El Synagogue, a member of The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which serves approximately 550 families. As a Conservative Jewish congregation, we represent a middle ground in Jewish theology. We are committed to conserving and upholding Jewish traditions, and our services are largely in Hebrew. We also believe the Jewish tradition continues to grow and change over the generations as the tradition interacts with modern life. Because of this view, women participate equally with men in our services. We welcome tour groups to visit our services. Call or e-mail our office for information.
We are a Welcoming and Vibrant Conservative Synagogue that Empowers, Engages and Inspires its congregants through God, Torah and Acts of Living Kindness.
To be a Caring, Warm and Welcoming Home of Conservative Judaism where our members have the opportunity to find spiritual fulfillment in their Jewish Life through education, friendship, religious and social experiences.
History of Beth El Synagogue
What came first, the synagogue or the congregation? In Beth El’s case, it was the latter, as Conservative congregants banded together over a decade before building its longtime home at 49th and Farnam Streets.
The Conservative congregation began to hold weekly services on September 13, 1929, at the Jewish Community Center on 20th and Dodge Streets. Its first elected officers included Sam Beber, J. Harry Kulakofsky, Mose Yousem, Jack Marer and A.B. Alpirn; the newly-formed ladies’ auxiliary was led by Mmes. J.J. Greenberg, Irvin Stalmaster, M.F. Levenson, Abe Weinstein and Julius Stein.
The first services were attended by over 1,000 people, and the congregation soon boasted of 200 families. Rabbi Abraham Bengis led the congregation during that first year, followed by Rabbi David Goldstein, who served as spiritual leader for the next 15 years.
Due to poor economic conditions in the 1930s, the congregation was often unable to meet its financial obligations, and building plans for a new synagogue were delayed.
In 1935, the Conservative congregation officially became Beth El Synagogue, and the Zimman family donated land at 49th and Farnam Streets for its future permanent home. In 1936, the first issues of the Beth El News (now the Kol) were published, Cantor Aaron Edgar joined the staff, and the Beth El choir made its debut. A Talmud Torah program, established in 1938, met at various locations throughout Dundee for a number of years.
Construction of the new synagogue — designed by John and Alan McDonald — began in 1939 and was dedicated during Hanukkah in 1941, one week after the United States entered World War II. Rev. Alexander Katz began a lifetime of service to the congregation when he was appointed assistant to the Rabbi in 1944, and Rabbi Myer S. Kripke became spiritual leader of the congregation in November 1946.
The congregation’s growth necessitated additional space, and in late 1952, a new wing of the synagogue was completed, offering classrooms, a chapel, recreation room, offices and a kitchen.
In 1975, Rabbi Kripke assumed emeritus status, and Rabbi Kenneth Bromberg held the pulpit until 1982, when Rabbi Paul Drazen became spiritual leader of Beth El for the next 20 years.
In 1972, Cantor Edgar was succeeded by Cantor Chaim Najman, who served the congregation until 1979, followed by a two-year stint by Cantor Robert Shapiro. Cantor Emil Berkovits came to Beth El in 1981, and served as both cantor and teacher during his 22-year tenure.
Over the years, as Omaha’s Jewish population moved westward and Talmud Torah classes were moved to church buildings and the Jewish Community Center in west Omaha, it became increasingly apparent that Beth El would need to relocate.
Land was acquired, funds generously contributed, and in July of 1991, 50 years after construction of the original synagogue building, Beth El moved nearly 100 blocks west to 14506 California Street, to its new home, designed by Notter Finegold and Alexander Inc. of Boston. (Beth El’s original home now serves as offices for an architectural firm, following a brief life as home of Opera Omaha.)
The synagogue houses a sanctuary which can accommodate 900 people; a chapel, a spacious social hall for wedding dinners, Bar/Bat Mitzvah parties and other simchas; offices and a large kitchen. In 1996 a school building was added with eight classrooms and offices.
For years the congregation has reaped the benefits of enthusiastic and talented clergy members. From 2002-2013, Rabbi Mordechai Levin served as the spiritual leader of the synagogue, offering innovative religious services, creating new adult education programming, and expanding programming for all ages. From 2003 to 2008, Cantor Gaston Bogomolni electrified the congregation with his infectious enthusiasm and extensive musical talent, and his successor, Cantor Beth Schlossberg infused both services and synagogue events with her joy-filled music from 2008 to 2012. In August 2011, Beth El welcomed Rabbi Steven Abraham, who brought a special warmth and creative energy to the congregation as our Assistant Rabbi. In August 2012, Hazzan Michael Krausman joined the clergy team. Hazzan Krausman endeavors to reach out to each member of our congregational family with his desire to teach and exemplify the spirituality, life and meaning of our sacred liturgy and music in partnership with Rabbi Abraham, who became Beth El’s congregational Rabbi in August 2013.