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The History of Beth Torah

This is the original drawing of our current building.

Beth Torah Congregation began at a meeting on March 11, 1947 at the home of Morris and Matilda Lunch. A group of eighteen men and women met to discuss the need for a community synagogue to serve Northeast Washington and the adjacent Maryland suburbs. A letter went out to the community from A.B. Kapplin asking that all interested parties attend a meeting to organize a new synagogue. The result was the creation of the Northeast Hebrew Congregation, with Mr. Kapplin as its first president.

Beth Torah's original board members.

The first High Holy Days services, in September 1947, were held in the Social Hall Annex of the Sherwood Presbyterian Church at 22nd Street, NE. Visiting rabbis conducted services, the Village Theatre offered space for weekly Shabbat services, and the Odd Fellows and Bortnick Restaurant allowed the use of their facilities for Sunday School classes. In 1952, Northeast Hebrew moved into a private dwelling at 4601 Eastern Avenue in Mt. Rainer. Rabbi Raymond Krinsky was selected as the first full-time rabbi in 1953. The cornerstone for a new building was laid on September 11, 1955, and the next spring, Northeast Hebrew moved into its first real home.

Eventually the decision was made for a new, larger building. The old building was sold in 1966, and services were held temporarily at the United Methodist Church. Groundbreaking at 6700 Adelphi Road was held in June of 1970, and the new building, Beth Torah (House of Torah), was dedicated on September 12, 1971.

And this is the day we purchased the property that Beth Torah now sits on!

In the fall of 1971, Beth Torah welcomed Rabbi Mendel Abrams as its spiritual leader. That same year, a vote was taken regarding women’s participation in the services, and was passed overwhelmingly. In 1974, Lew Rose a long time member and who, together with his wife, Millie, organized the Synagogue choir and wonderful musical programs, became our cantor. (He retired in 1996, and became our Cantor Emeritus.)

The year 1985 was an eventful one. Beth Torah had a special Bar Mitzvah ceremony celebrating thirteen years with both the new building and Rabbi Abrams. And on November 23, a party was held to celebrate the Burning of the Mortgage.

Since 1989, the Christian Fellowship Assembly has held its Sunday services in our Social Hall. In 1990, Beth Torah and the Christian Fellowship held an interfaith Shabbat service and Oneg Shabbat. In 1996, Rabbi Abrams participated in the first Prince George’s County Black-Jewish Seder, held at the P.G. Community College. Beth Torah entered the 21st Century with other exciting firsts: our first woman cantor and our first woman president. Cantor Yael Fischman joined us in 1998; President Sherry Simas is serving her fourth year as head of our Board of Trustees.

We look back on our history with wonder and gratitude and look forward to many more years of serving the religious and social needs of our community.

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