Congregation Beth Israel aspires to be a warm, welcoming, and inclusive spiritual home for the Jewish community of northern Berkshire and beyond. We are an inclusive congregation that welcomes interfaith couples and celebrates the diverse identities of all who join us.
Founded in the 1890s as an Orthodox shul, CBI joined the Reform movement in 2000. Our members come from every stream of denominational and post-denominational Jewish life. Our current rabbi’s training is pluralist / trans-denominational, and she aims to infuse Jewish life and practice with meaning and joy.
We cherish the spiritual richness of Jewish traditions and practices. We mark Jewish time around the wheel of the year and through the trajectory of each life. And we learn together, pray together, and seek to serve our community together.
We enjoy the upsides of being a small synagogue, like getting to know each other, and appreciating each person who shows up to daven (pray) or learn or celebrate with us. We love anchoring Jewish life in the northern Berkshires, and we look forward to welcoming you.
Our stunning 6,000-square-foot almond-shaped building is designed with large, floor-to-ceiling windows that provide glorious views at the foot of Mount Williams and Mount Greylock. It is the ideal space to feel spiritual and close to nature.
As you walk our outdoor labyrinth you can contemplate and feel connected to the world. It’s a remarkably calm experience that is both experienced in solitude and can be a wonderful communal experience that’s entirely unspoken.
Our garden enables us to care for the environment at CBI, to provide sustenance for pollinators, such as butterflies and bees, to create more natural habitat on our land, and to bring our community together on our beautiful grounds.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if I’m not (or my boyfriend / girlfriend / husband / wife / partner / child isn’t) Jewish?
All are welcome at CBI, period. There are a few rare instances in which we pay attention to whether or not someone is Jewish, having to do with certain formal roles in the Torah service and with who’s empowered to vote on matters of congregational religious practice. Otherwise, though, we don’t fret about who’s Jewish and who isn’t. What really matters is whether you want to “do Jewish.”
Does my sexual orientation or gender identity matter?
What if I don’t believe in God?
What if I don’t know the prayers? What if I don’t know Hebrew?
The prayers you need are written in your heart. If you don’t know our traditional prayers, we will lead you. At CBI you can pray in any language you want — and, beyond that, any mode you want: words, silence, chanting, yoga. All of these can be ways of connecting with something beyond yourself.
If you want to use traditional prayers, that’s great. We want to help. The words in the prayer book are amazing resources to help you access what is locked on the inside. Give it some time and keep an eye out for an intro to the siddur (prayer book) course, or schedule time to learn with Rabbi Rachel.
What type of synagogue is CBI? Does it belong to a denomination?
What if I want to send my kids to learn at CBI but am not sure I want to join (yet)?
What if I don’t keep kosher?
What if I want to check out CBI to see if it’s right for me, but I’m not ready to commit to anything?
Who leads services at CBI?
Our rabbi and spiritual leader, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat leads davenen (prayer) two Shabbats each month, one Friday night and one Saturday Morning. On the other Shabbatot, our services are usually led by Rabbi Pam Wax or Rabbi Jarah Greenfield. Sometimes we have guest (prayer leaders) instead of, or in addition to, our usual leaders of prayer.
Photo credits: Len Radin, Cheryl Sacks, Roger Matus