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About Us

Temple Beth Israel has a proud history dating back more than 140 years in York, Pennsylvania.

While there was at least one Jewish family in York in the years leading up to the Revolutionary War, it was not until 1847, when the Lehmayer family settled here, that the present Jewish community came into existence. In 1877, two dozen families banded together to found the Hebrew Reformed Congregation Temple Beth Israel on September 1.

For the first 30 years, the congregation worshiped in the home of Solomon Kahn on West Market Street, and later in rented rooms in downtown buildings with lay leaders conducting the services. The religious school was organized around 1901 and welcomed all Jewish children. The year 1904 saw the start of formal planning for a building to ensure stability for the coming generations. A site was purchased at South Beaver Street and Newton Alley. On August 30, 1907, the congregation, consisting of 41 families, dedicated the first Temple building.

That year the congregation also joined what was then called the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now called the Union for Reform Judaism), and adopted the Union Prayer Book for its rituals. It also employed its first ordained spiritual leader, Rabbi Emmanuel Schreiber. During World War II many members took part in fighting the war. Most famous was Rabbi Alexander D. Goode, who left the pulpit in 1942 and became a chaplain. He and three Christian chaplains became American heroes -- The Four Chaplains -- when they chose to remain aboard the troopship Dorchester after it was struck by a torpedo and sank in the North Atlantic.

There came the need for a larger facility due to the growth of the York Jewish community and the congregation. In 1962, construction of the present facility was begun on Hollywood Drive with the building of the Religious School wing, the auditorium, and the social facilities. Work was completed with the dedication of the Samuel and Clara Lebovitz Sanctuary in 1966.
Because of its location, the sanctuary became known as the "Jewel on the Hill." The unique hexagonal design suggests a crown of jewels resembling the facets of a diamond enhanced by richly stained glass. Over the years, 16 Rabbis have served Temple Beth Israel, most recently Rabbis Eli Cooper (1957-1973), Irwin Goldenberg (1973-2008), and Rabbi Jeffrey Astrachan (2008-2022).

Under their leadership, TBI has thrived. Our current membership includes approximately 200 households, and the religious school enrollment includes students from Kindergarten through 10th Grade.
In 2009, Temple Beth Israel, continuing its relationship with the Union for Reform Judaism, looked to the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, in New York City, to engage its first student-cantor, Tracy Fishbein. As a mentoring congregation, TBI helps train future Cantors to serve our Reform movement. 

With its rich, historic past, dynamic present, and exciting future, Temple Beth Israel hopes you will join the other members of this growing, vibrant, diverse, and welcoming congregation.

Wed, August 17 2022 20 Av 5782