Metro Detroit clergy to lead Yom Kippur service at Temple B’nai Shalom.

Living in a large metropolitan Jewish community where it is easy to find kosher food, Judaic items or even a synagogue, it’s easy to forget that small Jewish communities scattered around the state continue to function and offer a center for those living in more isolated areas. Hancock, Traverse City, South Haven, Charlevoix and Benton Harbor-St. Joseph come to mind as examples of these small but strong centers of Jewish life.

Benton Harbor-St. Joseph is one of those historic Jewish communities. There has been an organized Jewish community in the Benton Harbor-St. Joseph area since 1895, when the Children of Israel Synagogue was formed. An Orthodox congregation started in 1911 and a Reform congregation in 1934, then merged with Children of Israel over time to form today’s Temple B’nai Shalom, which is Conservative and dates to 1971.

In the 1930s, Benton Harbor was a major agricultural center and hosted the largest outdoor market in the country. The Berrien County Jewish Famer’s Association had more than 50 members — Jewish farmers who had been established with the help of HIAS as they arrived as new immigrants in the U.S.

The Jewish community, significantly smaller than it was in the early 1900s, continues to offer weekly services, a Sunday school program and Jewish programming developed by Temple B’nai Shalom.

Rabbi David Nelson
Rabbi David Nelson

This year, there is a unique Detroit-Benton Harbor connection. For Yom Kippur, Rabbi David Nelson, who served as the rabbi of Congregation Beth Shalom for many years, and Cantor Leonard Gutman, who served as the Chazzan Sheni at Congregation Shaarey Zedek, will be leading High Holiday services. Though Nelson has had a monthly pulpit with B’nai Shalom for 12 years, this will be the first time he will be leading these services.

Cantor Leonard Gutman
Cantor Leonard Gutman

Pre-registered guests, dictated by security needs, are always welcome; and information about the services or any other programs of the congregation are available by calling the office at (269) 925-8021. Nelson will also answer any questions about the services or other resources in the general community. Contact him at (248) 752-4914,

If you’re looking for a relaxed, traditional holiday in a vacation setting, consider visiting B’nai Shalom.

B’nai Shalom is located at 2050 Broadway, Benton Harbor, MI 49022

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