About Our Web Site
|Beth Israel History|
|Beth Israel is an intimate congregation situated in Washington, Washington County, in southwestern Pennsylvania, 30 miles southwest of Pittsburgh near the intersection of Interstates 70 and 79.
With more than a century of history, Beth Israel continues to have a full-time ordained rabbi and a full program of Jewish-related educational, cultural and social activities.
We are a Conservative congregation but we accept the full range of Jewish observance, from secular to Orthodox. We also welcome intermarried families into our community.
Highlights of each year are the High Holy Day services, including two-days observance of Rosh Hashanah, with a cantor who joins us for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
Shabbat service are held at 7:00 PM on Fridays and 9:30 AM Saturdays.
The Religious School holds classes from preschool through confirmation, and includes training for Bar and Bat Mitzvah.
You may also get sun and fun at our congregational summer picnic, take a role in our large community seder, or help bake (and eat) homemade hamentashen. There are regular Shabbat dinners, speakers, adult education programs, intermarried couples classes, and beginning Hebrew classes.
Beth Israel Synagogue is a modern building (pictured on the home page), dedicated in 1955. It was designed by nationally renowned synagogue architect, Alexander Sharove. It has two sanctuaries, classrooms, library, social hall, parlor, gymnasium/auditorium, and two kosher kitchens.
Our current rabbi is Rabbi David Novitsky, who comes to us from the big city across the state, Philadelphia. Rabbi Novitsky now lives in our Rabbi's home next to the Beth Israel Synagogue. Rabbi Novitsky leads Shabbat and holiday services, teaches in our religious school, prepares youths for Bar and Bat mitzvah, and conducts adult learning classes.
Founded in 1891 (5652), Beth Israel was honored for its first 50 years with the spiritual services of Rabbi Jacob Goldfarb. He was followed by 11 rabbis including our current spiritual leader, Rabbi David Novitsky.
The first 100 years of our history have been recounted in the book, "The House of Israel, A Home in Washington," for our centennial celebration. It was written by one of our members, Marilyn A. Posner, a prize-winning journalist. The book was designed by Maureen Stead, a prize-winning graphic artist. The volume is available in our library and for sale. It delineates not only the development of the congregation, but of the families that have been so important to the community. Among those who have grown up in Beth Israel are: Bud Yorkin, major television and film producer and Emmy Award-winner; David Cohen, child violin protege and mayor of Sarasota, Florida; and Dr. Alan Landay, noted AIDS researcher.
Beth Israel member, the late Marvin B. Kaufman, has also published a list of more than 70 members who served in the armed forces from World War I through the Vietnam War. At least four members were killed in action. Since the publication of that list, a decade ago, there have been many more veterans who have joined the congregation as members.
The history of Beth Israel shows the richness of the lives that have been intertwined with the life of the congregation. That continues today as members are the doctors, lawyers, judges, merchants, engineers, entrepreneurs, writers, photographers, and community volunteers in the area. Members are no longer only from Washington or even Washington County. Jews in search of a welcoming community travel from the South Hills, Washington and Greene counties, and West Virginia to be part of the Beth Israel family.
Names such as Cohen, Goldfarb, Grossman, Landay, Richman, Samolsky, and Siegel resonated throughout the community for most of Beth Israel's first century. New names are constantly being added to the list of active Beth Israel members who give their time, effort and dedication to the community.
Marilyn A. Posner