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		                                    Our History		                                </span>

For an individual, sixty years is a significant portion of a lifetime, but in the span of Jewish history it is but a moment—a moment every Jew must make significant. The founders of Brith Shalom fulfilled that obligation and have left us a heritage of which we can be truly proud. 

The Beginning and Early Milestones 

The idea for Brith Shalom took shape at a meeting of the Hebrew Education Committee of the Jewish Community Council, on September 15, 1954. The meeting was held to explore the needs of Jewish families in Southwest Houston who were interested in forming a congregation for prayer and Hebrew school. The synagogue first met in 1955 in a rented house at 2203 Bellefontaine. That year the constitution was ratified, and the new conservative synagogue became Congregation Brith Shalom. The first High Holy Day services were held in the Knights of Columbus Hall. The first rabbi was Samuel Scolnic.

In March 1956, the first service was held at 4301 Bellaire Boulevard in a prefabricated structure built by the members. The rabbi was Harry Sky.

Rabbi Moshe Cahana, of blessed memory, became the spiritual leader in 1958. In the fall of 1959, the congregation purchased the First Baptist Church at 4610 Bellaire Boulevard, our present location. The building was dedicated in April of 1961.

Over the span of its fifty year history, congregants have been served by many spiritual leaders: Rabbi Herbert Yoskowitz, Rabbi Shaul Osadchey, Rabbi Howard Siegel, Interim Rabbi Danny Horowitz, and now, Rabbi Ranon Teller.

Founding Principles  

From the very beginning, our primary goal is the integration of each individual member into synagogue life—into Jewish life. As our mission came to fruition, we have become a unique congregation.

We wanted to remain small in numbers and large in ideology. We wanted our members to know each other. We wanted every member to know the rabbi and for the rabbi to know every member.

The synagogue became an extension of our families. We produced, wrote, and starred in “The Follies” (memorable and hilarious musical reviews), hosted Shabbat dinners and organized weekend Shabbatons. Children were encouraged to participate in every facet of synagogue life. We built our sanctuary with the labor of our hands, creating art through our glorious ark cover, bimah cover, beautiful windows, and chuppah.

Blazing Trails 

Brith Shalom has had an immeasurable impact on the larger Jewish community through our innovative activity. Brith Shalom was the first congregation in the Houston area to offer aliyot to women, and classes were offered to prepare those honorees for the honor. We established a Religious School, not a Sunday School, one in which religion, Hebrew, contemporary issues, customs, and history were integrated into the curriculum. As an extension of classroom learning, students participated in a project to clean up areas in the inner city—one of the first programs of its kind. At the beginning, the cost of religious school was included in membership dues.

Our first woman president, during her tenure, organized the Council of Congregation Presidents, which set a precedent throughout the country.

In Houston, the Yom Hashoah Commemorative Service began as a community-wide observance at Brith Shalom in 1978, with theologian Dr. Emil Fackenheim as our guest. Through the efforts of Brith Shalom, an annual commemoration of Yom Hashoah was established in the Houston community.

Our participation in social action has been unsurpassed. Our spiritual leaders and our lay leadership were in the forefront of the Civil Rights Movement, both locally and nationally. When Rabbi Moshe Cahana walked into the sanctuary upon his return from marching in Alabama, the congregation gave him a standing ovation. Our Social Action programs came to the attention of the chair of the Rabbinical Assembly's Social Action Committee on Racial Justice, who wrote to us commending our involvement and our work.

In 1964 when our county hospital, Ben Taub, was in crisis, author Jan de Hartog spoke on the issue from our pulpit, while the rabbi read the names of the “jewels” of the synagogue who had taken Red Cross training and were volunteering as nurses' aides.

In 1983, with the leadership of Rabbi Osadchey, a group of Brith Shalom members visited Refuseniks in Russia, and opened the doors for future group trips to Russia.

Other Contributions 

Over the years, Brith Shalom has treated the Houston community to entertainers such as opera singer Robert Merrill, folk singer Theodore Bikel, vocalist Liza Minelli, and actress Olympia Dukakis; to lecturers such as Rabbi Harold Kushner, psychologist Haim Ginott, and Congresswoman Barbara Jordan; and to scholars-in-residence such as Dr. Theodore Gester, Professor Nahum Sarna, and Dr. Ismar Schorsch.

The larger Jewish community has also benefited from the leadership of Brith Shalom members. They have served the United Synagogue as regional leaders, the National Women’s League of Conservative Sisterhoods and the National Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs as regional and national leaders, as well as Hadassah, B’nai Brith, Jewish Women’s International, Brandeis, and O.R.T.

Brith Shalom members have chaired the women’s division of the United Jewish Campaign, served as presidents of Jewish Family Services, Seven Acres, the Federation, the Jewish Community Center and the AJC, as well as chairs of the JCC Book Fair.

A Glorious Past, A Bright Future 

Brith Shalom has a glorious past. The last five decades have been filled with remarkable, historcal moments. In this synagogue, we have shared life experiences: births, bar/bat mitzvahs, marriages, anniversaries, and the loss of loved ones. In this synagogue, we have found friendships, shared goals, holidays, and prayers. It is here that we have identified ourselves as Jews and affirmed our faith in God.

It is here at Brith Shalom, our Covenant of Peace, that we carry Judaism into the future.

Wed, July 24 2024 18 Tammuz 5784