As a pioneering Conservative congregation in Oakland County, Beth Shalom builds on a rich, seven-decade history.
Congregation Beth Shalom is a smaller congregation nestled in southeast Oakland County where, according to Rabbi Robert Gamer, people get the opportunity to know each other.
“CBS is a warm, welcoming space where Jews can gather to be themselves to pray, study and interact with a broad spectrum of people in the Jewish community,” Gamer said.
CBS, a Conservative/Masorti congregation, is also highly participatory. Members take active roles in every aspect of their services.
“People make Beth Shalom special,” Gamer said. “The members are welcoming and kind. Children are always welcome in the sanctuary and welcome on the bimah throughout services.”
CBS was the first Conservative congregation in suburban Oakland County. The shul was founded in the early 1950s by residents of Huntington Woods and Oak Park who walked door-to-door asking if people would like to start a new shul. They began meeting in people’s basements until the first stage of the building, still CBS’ only location, was completed in 1957. Rabbi Mordecai S. Halpern served as founding rabbi.
In the beginning, a combination social hall/sanctuary served the congregation’s needs until the sanctuary, chapel and offices were added in 1965. The unique sanctuary, designed by synagogue architect Percival Goodman, permits more than 500 people to sit within 35 feet or 11 rows of the bimah. A classroom wing was added in 1998.
Kehillat Etz Chayim, a Modern Orthodox congregation formed in 2018 serving residents of Huntington Woods and surrounding cities, currently uses CBS’s small chapel for Shabbat morning and holiday services. KEC is guided by the rabbinic leadership of Rabbi Asher Lopatin.
CBS offers daily and holiday services, a men’s club, sisterhood, a joint religious school called “Yachad” with Temple Emanu-El, youth programming through Motor City USY, ongoing adult education and a host of programming for people of all ages. The congregation includes over 200 membership units.
CBS was the first Conservative congregation in the Detroit area to call women up for aliyot to the Torah, count women in a minyan and offer bat mitzvahs on Shabbat mornings.
The clergy/executive staff includes Rabbi Gamer, Cantor Sam Greenbaum, Emeritus Rabbi David Nelson, Executive Director Shira Shapiro and Yachad Director Gail Greenberg.
Looking to the future with virtual programming, Beth Shalom is now an American Jewish University Maven partner, the second partner congregation in the United States.
“AJU offers an impressive array of virtual classes and programming, and we are proud to be part of this effort,” Gamer said.
“During the coming year, our congregation will be virtually hosting three AJU speakers.”
Learn more at congbethshalom.org.