Beth El Temple Center History

bethel_ConcordAvenueIn 1931, a small group of dedicated Jewish families in Belmont and Watertown had a dream, to create a sacred Jewish home – a place where Jews in Belmont and neighboring communities could come to tell their stories, to share their lifecycle events and to grow and deepen as a people.

These visionary founders created a new congregation that would soon become Beth El Temple Center. The members engaged their first full-time Rabbi, Earl A. Grollman, and began planning for a building of their own.

In 1955, Beth El Temple Center at 2 Concord Avenue was dedicated and has served as our congregation’s center for worship, community, learning, and Tikkun Olum for over fifty years.

The dream continued to grow, and in 1985 two inspired members of our congregation, Harold Ponn of blessed memory, and Irving Gerber, conceived of the idea of our sanctuary’s remarkable stained glass windows. In 1995, the final window was dedicated and our sanctuary was made more beautiful, more symbolic and more holy because of their passion and commitment.

In 1994, Rabbi Jonathan E. Kraus became the new spiritual leader of Beth El Temple Center. His passionate, vibrant Jewish voice has sparked our community’s growth in many areas, in many ways. Under the leadership of Rabbi Kraus we have continued to expand our commitment to life-long Jewish learning, to the pursuit and promotion of peace and justice locally and throughout the world, and to creating worship experiences that are accessible and engaging for all our congregants.

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In 1998, members of Beth El Temple Center launched a major capital campaign – a “Commitment to the Future”—a dream to renew and renovate several areas within our building, including classrooms, the library, the main entrance, the Rabbi’s study and the sanctuary. While the campaign surpassed its fundraising goal, and we completed much of the renovation, we had not yet reached a unified vision for our worship space.


Upon celebrating our Golden Jubilee 50th Anniversary in 2005, we initiated the “Campaign to Complete the Dream.” Building on the devotion and contributions of generations before us who helped make this our community and our spiritual home, we pledged to renew and rejuvenate our most sacred space. We set a goal to ensure that all members of the Beth El Temple Center community can engage in joyful, musical, inclusive, participatory and spiritually meaningful worship.

Choir in SanctuaryToday, we have reached that goal – we have completed the total renovation and transformation of our sanctuary. On September 13, 2009 we rededicated our sanctuary, the sacred space at the heart of our building that will serve our community as the center of sanctity and celebration for generations to come.