About Us

Congregation Beth Israel is a vibrant, traditional yet egalitarian Conservative synagogue. Conveniently located in Scotch Plains, it serves the religious, cultural and social needs of congregants from Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Westfield and surrounding towns.

Shabbat services Friday night and Saturday morning, as well as festival, weekday and Sunday minyans are held under the leadership of Rabbi Howard Tilman and Cantor Matthew Axelrod. Special services for young children and junior congregation are also conducted Saturday morning and on the High Holidays.

The synagogue boasts an award-winning, innovative religious school, with classes for 100 students. The school was recently designated one of three “Framework for Excellence” Schools in North America by the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. Curriculum includes pre-school up through High School as well as special needs instruction. The professional staff of dedicated teachers continue to attend seminars in the field of Hebrew education.

Congregation Beth Israel has an active Sisterhood, Men’s Club, Adult Education Program, and USY and Kadima youth groups. Other committees, ranging from Social Action to Long-Range Planning, offer congregants additional opportunities to become involved in synagogue life.

Office Hours During School Year:

Monday                        9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Tuesday                       9:00 am – 4:00 pm

Wednesday                  9:00 am –  6:00 pm                                                                           

Thursday                      9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Friday                           9:00 am – 12:00 pm 


History of Congregation Beth Israel

On Aug. 22, 1957, families from Scotch Plains and Fanwood began to discuss creating a “Scotchwood Jewish Center” that would serve as a meeting place and a Hebrew school.

Within a few weeks, they decided to establish a Conservative synagogue, Temple Israel. Its first Shabbat service was held on Friday night, Oct. 25, 1957, in the upstairs room of the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad. The United Synagogue lent prayer books, and congregants took turns giving sermons.

As time went on, the congregation borrowed space wherever it could be found; committee meetings were held at Plains Heating on Westfield Road and Route 22 in Scotch Plains, and Sunday School at the Evergreen Elementary School, also in Scotch Plains. Members taught classes and drew up the curriculum.

In July 1958, the synagogue rented a store at 1721 East 2nd St. in Scotch Plains. The sanctuary was on the first floor, where the borrowed Torah was kept in a homemade Ark. That fall, a student rabbi from the Jewish Theological Seminary officiated at our first High Holiday services in the Italian-American Hall in Scotch Plains. A year later, the synagogue appointed its first rabbi — on a part-time basis.

A permanent home would soon follow. In December 1959, land was purchased on the corner of Martine Avenue and Cliffwood Street from the Township of Scotch Plains. A total of $90,000 was raised, and the remaining funding was provided by a dozen members who co-signed a $10,000 mortgage. The first services in our new building were held on Friday, Jan. 17, 1964.

An important innovation in the ritual of our services started in 1973 when the synagogue began to count women in the minyan and to honor them with aliyot.

Through the years, much attention was paid to education. In 1973, the pre-Sunday School program for younger children was established. In the 1980s, high school students began attending a formal post-Bar and Bat Mitzvah Youth Institute in Springfield. With the inception of Akiba Academy in 1986, the synagogue provided education  from preschool through high school. In the late 1980s, we began offering a three-credit college course for Akiba students.

Adults, too, expanded their horizons. In 1988, Rabbi George and Liba Nudell led 21 congregants on the synagogue’s first trip to Israel.

It was becoming clear that the synagogue needed more space to accommodate the congregation and its programs. On Dec. 7, 1989, the Scotch Plains Board of Adjustment voted to allow the synagogue to build a second floor, and on Aug. 8, 1992, the first services were held in our new sanctuary.

Another major turning point in Temple Israel’s history was its merger in 1994 with Temple Beth El of Plainfield to form Congregation Beth Israel.

And in 2007, the synagogue celebrated its 50th anniversary, an event that most likely had not been in the minds of those families who met a half-century earlier to create a place where they could gather, learn and take pride in their Jewish heritage.