Beth El FAQs

Do I need to be a member—or even Jewish—to participate at Beth El?

Not at all! Everyone is welcome in our community regardless of their membership status or background. Beth El is home to many interfaith families and converts as well as people who grew up in more traditionally observant homes. We thrive on building relationships that help us see the world from many perspectives. Learn more about membership, or start by signing up for our weekly e-newsletter.

Does Beth El welcome interfaith families?

Absolutely. Beth El includes many interfaith families, and the non-Jewish members are welcome to participate in almost every part of the service, as well as our religious school and programs. While parts of our services are in Hebrew, Beth El’s prayer-book (written by our congregation) has English translations and transliterations. Our service leaders (both clergy and laity) make a point of sharing page numbers to make sure that we remain together as we pray.

What Covid-19 precautions does Beth El practice? Can I join events and services online?

 Beth El reopened for services in early summer 2021 but will continue to offer services, Torah study and programs via live streaming and Zoom. Our website features service times and links as well as weekly study materials.

What if I need physical accommodations?

We are committed to full accessibility at Beth El (see details on Diversity, Inclusion & Accessibility). This has meant making improvements to our building, expanding our prayer life, and designing accessible programming. Our building and garden are fully wheelchair accessible. We also have large-print prayer books, hearing assistance devices, and a fragrance-free section during services.

How do I get involved and meet other people or join Beth El?

Just show up! Come to Shabbat services or a study group (either in person or remotely) to get to know us as we worship. We look forward to resuming festive meals after services (temporarily on hiatus for COVID-19 safety). Attend one of the events listed on our home page and in our weekly e-newsletter, Mah Chadash? (“What’s New?”). Come to one of our annual Purim Spiels, Hanukkah fairs, or other celebrations. To get started, consider checking out our many groups and committees to connect with people who share similar interests and passions. Then visit our membership page for information on joining. No one is ever excluded because of financial constraints. Questions? Please email us!

How would you describe Beth El’s religious practices?

Congregants at Beth El (a Reform-affiliated synagogue) practice many different levels of Jewish observance. Social justice and discussing the meaning of texts are just as important as ritual observance. Members come from all backgrounds ranging from non-observant/non-Jewish to those who grew up in a more religious atmosphere.

Many of our members neither read nor speak Hebrew, and that’s OK. Our services feature a mix of Hebrew and English, and our siddur (prayer book) has recently been transliterated so those who don’t read Hebrew can fully participate. Beginning Hebrew classes are offered often.  Our services also have lots of participatory music and spirit, which transcend language!

People wear a variety of clothes to services Some people wear everyday clothes, other wear their work clothes, and some dress up (more so at High Holiday services and lifecycle events). Tallitot (prayer shawls) and kippot (yarmulkes) are optional and we have extras. As a general rule, we encourage comfort and authenticity over formality.

We follow kashrut (ritual laws regarding food) in our building. We do not consume meat or shellfish at our events, and members are asked to ensure all food that’s brought in is kosher.  According to our standards, this means that it does not contain lard or other ingredients that do not meet the standards of kashrut. If you have any questions about this aspect of our community’s life, please contact our temple administrator at templeadmin@bethelsudbury.org.

What is Beth Els bar/bat mitzvah process like?

About 18 months prior to turning 13, our students are assigned a bar/bat mitzvah date as close as possible to their birthday. They and their families study with Rabbi Breindel in our Torah Class, culminating in a weekend Shabbat retreat. Together they explore questions of Jewish identity in the 21st century, role-play issues in Jewish ethics, and draw together in friendship and support.  Under the guidance of our clergy, our students learn to chant verses from Torah and from the Prophets (haftarah).  They also prepare a d’var Torah (sermon) in which they share their unique insights into their Torah portion and their relationship to their Jewish heritage. Additionally, the gabbai for the student’s bar/bat mitzvah service provides support and guidance through the process.

Bar/bat mitzvah ceremonies take place as part of our regular Shabbat services on Saturdays. Afterwards, the congregation celebrates together at a kiddush luncheon, where food has traditionally been prepared by congregants as part of our Community Catering program (we will resume serving food when the Covid-19 situation permits).