Beth Tzedek Congregation: The little shul that could – celebrates 20 years in Edmonton

Cantor Jack Goldberg leading Havdallah at the Beth Tzedek Summer Social last month.

By Martin Bankey and Stan Bronson

(Edmonton) – Beth Tzedek Congregation, “the little shul that could,” will be celebrating its twentieth anniversary this coming year. We are very proud of our history. Beth Tzedek is a progressive congregation that follows a Conservative liturgy. Originally founded in 1996, we are conveniently located in Edmonton’s west end. Our services are completely egalitarian. Everyone who attends is welcome to participate directly in the services if they choose. As a synagogue we are actively involved in events within the Jewish community and the greater Edmonton area.

In the spring of 1996 eighteen members of the Edmonton Jewish community inaugurated the participatory, self-reliant Congregation Beth Tzedek. For the first three months of its existence these individuals met for Saturday morning services at the Jewish Drop-In Centre. Then the congregation rented a room at the Robertson Wesley United Memorial Hall where it continued to hold Saturday morning services. Soon after this the congregation acquired its own Torah from the Beth Israel Synagogue in North Battleford, Saskatchewan to replace the one it had on loan. Beth Tzedek held its first High Holiday services in 1996 with Cantor Avinoam Sharon leading the services to usher in the New Year 5757. Cantor Sharon returned three more times (’97, ’98 & ’99) to lead the services of Beth Tzedek in celebrating the Yom Tovim. In 1998 Beth Tzedek moved to the chapel room of the Edmonton Talmud Torah where it has held regular services up to the present time. As the shul entered the new millennium, Cantor Jack Goldberg was engaged to lead the Yom Tovim services for the New Year 5761 and he has remained as our cantor in residence ever since.

The Beth Tzedek Congregation seeks to encourage participation and create a sense of belonging for its membership. The congregation is committed to meeting the religious needs of its members within the framework of a Conservative liturgy. It endeavours to create an atmosphere that encourages congregants, whether new or longstanding, to participate in all facets of the service. In keeping with the spirit and teachings of Judaism, Beth Tzedek recognizes its responsibility to the wider Jewish community and is committed to holding meaningful, educational events as well as cooperating with the wider community in any activity that contributes to “Tikkun Olam”. As mentioned before, Beth Tzedek is a progressive, egalitarian congregation; women and men over the age of Bat/Bar Mitzvah share the same privileges and responsibilities. Our religious practices fall comfortably within the Conservative spectrum of Judaism, although we are not formally affiliated with any religious movement.

We hold Shabbat Services every Saturday morning, beginning around 10:00 am and ending shortly after noon in the chapel room of Talmud Torah. We do not have a rabbi but we do have our cantor, Jack Goldberg, who leads services on the High Holidays and regularly attends on Shabbat. Consequently we are a fully participatory congregation. All parts of the Shabbat service are led by our members. Services are typically followed by a delicious kiddush, also provided by members of the congregation in rotation.

We are a small but dedicated congregation, and many of our members attend Shabbat services on a regular basis. We find that “davening” within the context of a smaller congregation lends an atmosphere of warmth and camaraderie to the service that is characteristic of our shul. Additionally, we enjoy spontaneous discussions and the exchange of ideas around the themes of the Parashat Hashavua and the Haftarah. It has been our privilege to confer Bar and Bat Mitzvahs several times over the years, events which are cause for great celebration!

We hold services for most of the major religious festivals, frequently incorporating social events around the holidays. Thus, we have special kiddushim for Rosh Hashanah, Shavuot, and other holidays as well as celebrating Chanukah and Purim together as a congregation at the homes of one of our members. We hold an annual communal Seder on the second night of Pesach, which is open to non-members as well. In spite of our smaller size, we participate actively in many community events sponsored by the greater Edmonton Jewish Federation. We offer bar/bat mitzvah lessons for youth and, in some cases, adults. We also do memorial services for any in the Jewish community when called upon.

Because we employ no full-time professional staff our annual expenses, and consequently our annual membership dues, are very modest in comparison to those of the major congregations in Edmonton. If being part of a smaller, tight-knit group sounds appealing to you then do attend one of our services. You will be made most welcome. On behalf of Beth Tzedek we wish all members of the Jewish community a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year … “Shanah Tovah Umetukah”!

For more information contact: Stan Bronson (780) 444-4012 or Martin Bankey (780) 486-0172


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