2019 Year End Review Beth Emet The Free Synagogue

At Beth Emet, we encourage questions and engage in dialogue to seek answers. In a world filled with a multitude of mediums in which we communicate every day, we constantly question how to best engage with you: our congregants, friends, family, and community. While some still relish the physical feel of newspapers between their fingertips, others are content with the ease of a thumb swiping against a screen held in one hand.

With this in mind, we introduce a new way to tell the story of a "year in the life of Beth Emet," that we hope will satisfy everyone. This digital publication can be enjoyed at a pace you choose. We hope you want to spend time reading the wise words of our clergy and lay leadership, and we provide the option to do so by clicking on the "Read More" buttons you will find below. If you'd like a paper copy of the longer articles, we are happy to provide. Others may choose to view this publication by viewing the colorful images and reading the detailed captions through out. However you choose to enjoy this Year End Review, we hope you will feel proud of all that Beth Emet had accomplished this year, and feel confident that we are thriving community comprised of warm, energetic, spiritual, giving, curious, and engaged individuals.

Letters from the Leadership

Letters from the Leadership

Rabbi Andrea London looks back at the accomplishments of the past year including the Capital Campaign and construction, the combination with Temple Judea Mizpah, work of the Social Justice Committee, and much more.
Rabbi Amy Memis-Foler reflects upon her first year at Beth Emet.
Get to know Beth Emet's newest members of the clergy!

Letters from the Leadership

President of the Board of Trustees, Karen Isaacson, outlines her priorities to enhance relationships and connections within Beth Emet.
Immediate Past President Ross Bricker reports on where we stand as congregation, both financially and programmatically.

Adult Education

Our Adult Education Program is driven by our congregants' own interests and is integrated into the context of their lives. Classes offer engaging opportunities to meet new people, exchange ideas, and embrace Jewish history, ritual and culture. Our faculty includes clergy, professors, congregants of Beth Emet, and other members in the Jewish community. Offerings range from one-time events to year-long classes.

A sampling of some of our classes from this past year.

Beit Sefer בֵּית סֵפֶר

Beth Emet’s Beit Sefer programs engage children in preschool through sixth grade, to deepen their Jewish experiences and knowledge in order to strengthen faith in God, love of Torah, and identification with the Jewish people. Through experiential programming and classroom learning, we build meaningful relationships and Jewish involvement among families in our synagogue. By learning about and questioning Jewish beliefs and values, exploring our traditions and history, and confronting current world issues, children can discover answers for themselves and develop meaningful, rewarding lives that will continually renew, inspire and transform themselves and their community.

This year, Beit Sefer expanded its capacity to educate diverse learners; added chuggim - activities in grades three and four that included cooking, art, music, Israeli sports games, and writing; created a Dor L’Dor (generation to generation) moment in our worship and song sessions that brought Jews from the past through a door into Beit Sefer; and increased parent involvement and family programming through Beth Emet Families Connect.

Beit Sefer is all about creating deeper meaning in our present lives through engaging immersive moments.

Top row: Dor L’Dor (generation to generation) moment in our worship and song sessions that brought Jethro from the past through a door into Beit Sefer. Sixth graders created fall holiday arts projects. Bottom: Third graders drew depictions of Ki Anu Amecah "We are your people, for you are our God."
Top row: The annual sixth grade Tzedakah Fair showcases nonprofit and service organizations. Sixth grade students pick a cause and organization, conduct research, and create a presentation to inform fellow Beit Sefer children to donate to different causes. Parents of our kindergarten and new first and second graders shared the story behind the Hebrew names of their children at our Consecration and Naming Ceremony in March. Bottom: Rabbi Memis-Foler’s fifth grade class commemorated the Holocaust by learning about the Rescued Torah that is in our Sanctuary.

Our third graders conclude their final siyyum with a song about how the year passes but the tunes and warm feelings remain.

Early Childhood

Beth Emet’s Early Child Program for young children age 12 months to five years old, engages children and families in a variety of Jewish experiences from classroom education to holiday celebrations. Our program cultivates children’s curiosity and love of learning, enriching all areas of a child’s development.

In response to parent requests, we created Ivrit with Ronit, a fun afternoon Hebrew class for children ages four to six. Feedback has been very positive, and we’re planning to offer it again this summer and next year.

This spring we re-designed our outdoor play space to encourage creativity, exploration, learning and fun. Children can use all their senses, and of course, their imagination, as they run, build, paint, dig, climb, plant, and more.

Clockwise: In preparation for changes made this spring to the playground, Early Childhood students said goodbye to their beloved monkey bars, watched with excitement the construction vehicles and changes taking place, and are enjoying their new nature-inspired play space.
Left: "Ivrit with Ronit" was a new Hebrew class started this year for kids ages four to six. Right: Children baked their own matzah singing, "Roll the dough, make the matzah flat. Poke it with a little fork and bake it just like that!"
Our G'dolim students spent their tzedakah money at Jewel to buy food for The ARK, which they delivered and shelved on site. Welcoming one's family to class as Shabbat guests is eagerly awaited by every child. Shabbat guests join the class Shabbat signing,read stories, have a snack, and light the candles.

Youth נוער

Through both formal classes and informal youth group events for fourth through twelfth graders, our Youth Programs inspire authentic engagement with Judaism and Jewish practice; build the skills for leadership and social change; and to provide a safe and responsive program that meets students where they are in their lives and helps them to grow as Jews and thoughtful people.

This year, our Youth Programs focused on building the skills and tools for advocacy and action. Through a variety of courses and events, students reflected on our current society and envisioned a future more closely aligned with our Jewish values of compassion and justice.

Our ninth and tenth grade Chavayah class explored the theme civic engagement. They learned different tactics and skills to make their voices heard to our elected officials. Teens had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. to lobby for criminal justice reform, host our second annual Interfaith Immigration Advocacy Day, and deepen our connections within the broader community and further committing to making the Chicago-area safe and welcoming to all.

One of the highlights of our Youth Programs was our Interfaith Social Justice Spring Break trip with teens from Second Baptist Church and Grace Lutheran Church. The five day experience not only not only give participants an understanding of the histories of our different faiths, but also the ways in which power operates throughout our institutions and culture to allocate privilege and oppress communities based on identities such as race, class, gender, nationality, and more.

From spending time with gun violence prevention activist David Hogg in the Perlman room, to watching some of our amazing BESSY Board members take responsibility for planning and running our Garinim events, it was an incredible year in our Youth Programs.

Clockwise: Fourth and fifth graders lighting the menorah at our Garinim (grades four and five) Chanukah party. • Sixth graders having a blast at our first Chasamba (grades six through eight) event of the year – pumpkin picking and a hay ride at Kroll’s Orchard! BESSY Board Members Ben Robke, Abby Diamond, and Chloe Cohn play games with Garinim students in the Perlman Room. Beth Emet teens had the opportunity to visit with Parkland survivor and March For Our Lives Co-founder, David Hogg. • Beth Emet teens BESSY members Jordan Selch, Ben Robke, and Benicio Caro in Washington DC before their lobbying visits with Sen Duckworth, Sen Durbin, and Rep. Schakowsky to advocate for criminal justice reform with the Religious Action Center.
Top: Beth Emet teens Jordan Selch, Ben Robke, Maddy Foler, and Sophia Posner leading Havdalah for teens from Second Baptist Church and Grace Lutheran Church during our Interfaith Social Justice Spring Break trip. Bottom: Group photo at the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago.

Beth Emet Synagogue Senior Youth (BESSY) prove you're never too old to play with toys at the annual BESSY Lock-in.

Social Justice

תיקון עולם

Founded on an unswerving belief in the right to free speech, from our earliest days Beth Emet has championed human rights and worked vigorously toward tikkun olam, repair of the world. Through awareness and action, we are committed to promoting social justice in meaningful and important ways. In 2018, the Social Justice Coalition was formed to engage the community through advocacy, social action, tzedakah, and youth involvement.

The mission of the Social Justice Coalition is to transform the world from one that is often full of fear, hatred, and disengagement to one that is rich with respect, love, and understanding. As Jews, it is imperative that we create the world we want to see and not accept the world as it is.

We are guided by these core values: Tzedek (righteousness/justice); Ahava (love of one's neighbor and for the stranger); Rachamim (compassion); Chesed (kindness); and Hachnasat Orchim (hospitality).

The Social Action Committee

The Social Action Committee (SAC) had a productive year. The Post Detention Accompaniment Team (P-DAT) continued its work with newly released detained immigrants, adding more volunteers and increasing Beth Emet’s commitment of support to two weeks each month. Beth Emet’s P-DAT team has helped over 85 people from countries all over the world. The SAC also continued its support of the Rohingya Culture Center; Beth Emet volunteers make up half the volunteer pool for the Mom and Tot program. The SAC hosted guest speakers from various community agencies at the monthly committee meetings and hosted a training session for Interfaith Action’s winter cold weather shelter. In addition, the SAC organized three family service events (Lunch, Learn, Love with Connections for the Homeless, a Toy Drive for Rohingya Center, and a letter writing campaign paired with Baking a Difference). Over 60 families participated in these three events! Plans are under way for two new sub-committees, one focused on climate change and the other on Holocaust issues, as well as more family service events. Come join our work!

Beth Emet members regularly volunteer at the Rohingya Cultural Center in Rogers Park.

Beth Emet's P-DAT volunteers greet asylum seekers upon release from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention in Chicago. They assist with arranging for transportation and provide a meal, backpack with basic needs, and if needed temporary housing. P-DAT operates in cooperation with Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants (ICDI) and is partially funded through donations. This year, P-DAT assisted with 95 asylum seekers from 15 countries.

The Advocacy Committee

The Advocacy Committee addresses the policies and laws that are the source of injustice in our world. Our work is driven by the belief that the world we hope for can come to pass. For that to happen will require the commitment of the many of us who are willing to amplify our voices by joining with others to take action and to be heard. Much of our activity involves targeted emails, letters, calls and attendance at rallies. For many activities, we work in partnership with other Reform congregations and Evanston-based faith groups.

This fall the Advocacy Committee hosted a register to vote event in the Lobby.

Tzedakah Committee

The Tzedakah Committee supports causes and organizations that promote justice, equality, and social well-being. It also encourages our community to perform regular acts of tzedakah (righteous giving and righteous doing) as a part of daily life. Ideally, prior to Shabbat, each Beth Emet member will set aside at least one dollar per week ($52 per year) specifically designated for the Beth Emet Tzedakah Fund. Donation boxes are located throughout the synagogue. The Tzedakah Committee also conducts two formal tzedakah fund collections each year—immediately following Sukkot and Pesach. Funds help support Chicago-area nonprofit grantees including Center for Enriched Living, Park School PTA, Rohingya Culture Center, Centro Romero, and Center for Independent Futures.

Social Justice Youth Programming

Social Justice is integrated into every aspect of Beth Emet’s Youth Programming. From b’nei mitzvah all the way through Kabbalat Torah (12th grade confirmation program), Beth Emet teens gain concrete skills in community organizing, advocacy and direct service, all through a Jewish lens.

Beth Emet hosted it's second annual Interfaith Interfaith Immigration Advocacy Day in partnership with the Kino Border Initiative, the Children of Abraham Coalition, and St. Ignatius College Prep (pictured). Planned by youth for youth, teens discussed their experiences, knowledge, and share ideas for taking action.

The Interfaith Social Justice Spring Break trip with teens from Second Baptist Church and Grace Lutheran Church. Teens visited sites such as Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation, the Institute for Nonviolence Chicago, the Inner City Muslim Action Network, the Council on American Islamic Relations, and more. We focused on the politics of immigration, housing, structural violence to illuminate social disparities. Students forged meaningful friendships by drawing parallels between the past and the present, and how our faiths push us to work towards justice.

To learn more about this year's Social Justice Youth Programming, visit the Youth section in this presentation.

Beth Emet Soup Kitchen

For 17 years, the Beth Emet Soup Kitchen has served over 80,000 home style meals to people in need in the greater Evanston community, as well as supplying sack lunches for these guests to take with them to enjoy the next day.

Guided by the Jewish values of hachnasat orchim (hospitality) and chesed (kindness), Soup Kitchen volunteers generously donate funds, purchase groceries, slice, dice, and cook dinner, prepare lunches, then graciously serve the meal in the beautifully set dining room. More volunteers act as hosts, wash the dishes and trays, and clean the kitchen and dining room. Guests gather to eat, stay warm and safe, while enjoying the camaraderie and listening to live music.

Every Wednesday, The Beth Emet Soup Kitchen offers a brief respite from the challenging lives many of our guests experience. Our delicious food and smiling volunteers make all feel welcome

Get Involved

T'rumah Capital Campaign

The T’rumah Capital Campaign achieved three goals – we reimagined and transformed our physical home, we doubled our endowment (the Beth Emet Foundation), and we improved our overall financial liquidity.. We exceeded our original goal of $6.13 million, and by stretching our goal to $7.1 million we are able to achieve additional much needed capital improvements. We remain grateful to all those who have stepped up to show their commitment to Beth Emet, and for those who wish to participate we have $200,000 left to raise.

Re-imagining Our Facility:

Our success brought phase one to completion which transformed the eastside of the building including the Sanctuary, Herman and Mildred Crown Room, and the Lobby (which we so affectionately call the “living room”). We have more comfortable and accessible seating, better sound that allows those who need hearing assistance through a t-coil and RTF system, and informal space for enhanced community “hanging.” It’s been exciting to see how the new space has evolved how we learn, worship and gather together.

This June brings more renovation, as we move our school entrance to the west side of the building, offering a more secure and accessible way in which to enter the building. The Weiner Room will experience a much-needed makeover which will not only make the space more comfortable, but we are adding a coatroom and much improvements to the bathrooms. There will also be some office re-configuration to allow for the new entrance.

Increased Endowment

Through the success of this campaign, the Beth Emet Foundation has more than doubled in size to $5 million, providing financial security and the means to support the programs and services that are the backbone of our community.

Financial Responsibility

As part of the T’rumah campaign, funds were raised to improve our financial liquidity by providing a seasonal working capital facility and a reduction of existing credit facilities and other Capital Campaign related activities. Beth Emet’s leadership recognizes its responsibility for careful stewardship of all the congregation’s financial resources, as confirmed by annual audits of all the synagogue accounts and practices.


The Sanctuary pre-construction.
During the reconfiguration of the bima, a wooden board with "Beth Emet" written on it was discovered which was from a previous renovation nearly 20 years ago.
Work men level out the floor with concrete.
Rabbi London shows the built in Geniza (a storage area designated for worn-out Hebrew-language books and papers on religious topics prior to proper cemetery burial) which is located under the ramp to the left of the bima.
Panoramic view of the Sanctuary under construction, summer 2018.
The Sanctuary and Crown Room hosted more than 1,000 community members who came to pay their respects at a vigil after the tragedy at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.


The former Bruce Gordon Memorial Library, coat closet, and former Chapel were removed to have an open space where congregants can gather, have a cup of coffee, host an event, and more in this new light-filled "living room."
The Lobby under construction in summer, 2018.
The Advocacy committee hosts a register to vote in the Lobby.

The Herman and Mildred Crown Room

The Herman and Mildred Crown Room was updated with new acoustics, lighting, built in storage, and more.

The Crown Room prior to construction.

Sanctuary entrance on Dempster

The Sanctuary entrance pre-construction.
View from the second floor during construction, summer 2018.

Coming Soon

The school entrance is moving and the security vestibule is being built creating a new west entrance just off the parking lot! Plus, renovations to the Weiner Room will be taking place.

Rendering of the Weiner Room
Rendering of the inside of the new west entrance hallway.

Mitzvah Appeal 2018

It is our shared commitment and care for our community that makes this congregation thrive. While the recent and planned renovations to our building are very important for the long-term vibrancy of our synagogue, it is essential that we continue to support the annual operations of the congregation. This is the essence of the annual Mitzvah Appeal campaign. This year we are excited report that we raised $214,000 through the generosity of our members. As part of this year's campaign, we had four very different thank you events, from discussions on politics to wine and beer tastings. We are grateful to this year's chairs, Bob Cutler and Caryn Etkin, who led this important effort on behalf of the congregation, and we thank those who supported their leadership by working on the various events.

Top: At the MItzvah Appeal thank you event "Got Beer?" at Temperance Brew Co.. donors learned about brewing process, recited Havdalah, and enjoyed dinner from Superdawgs. Bottom: Guests at "Sommelier Soiree" sampled various wines at the home of congregants Neal Moglin and Mark Tendam. At "Bagels, Lox, and Leaders: A conversation about the current state of politics and society and the future role of the media" guests heard from Jan Schakowsky, United States Congresswoman serving Illinois 9th Congressional District and Peter Slevin, Northwestern University Journalism Professor and former Chicago Bureau Chief of the Washington Post. The brunch discussion was moderated by Cam Davis, who was elected as Board of Commissioners for the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District .


Community is threaded not only within each page of this publication, but is at the core of each and everything we do at Beth Emet.

Our community grew this year as we welcomed Temple Judea Mizpah. Together we celebrated simchas and holidays, from Simchat Torah to Purim, to Rabbi London's 18 Years at Beth Emet and Shabbat Dinners. We learned new traditions such as TJM's of "Blessing of the Animals" for Parashat Noah, and our newest members brought their vitality to so many aspects of Beth Emet life.

Members and committees are committed to creating programs and events for of all age groups and interests. Our Family Issues Aging Task Force (FIAT) continued to host its monthly teas and thoughtful conversations about aging wisely. Beth Emet Families Connect (BEFC) hosted two successful Parent and Kids Night Out at Beth Emet! encouraging socialization for both age groups. Beth Emet Programs for Families with Young Children casually incorporate Jewish traditions like Havdalah into events like at its annual summer event, Singing, Supper, and S'mores.

Beth Emet incorporates community building into our events by encouraging each participant to wear a name tag. What better way to focus on the virtue Hachnasat Orchim, welcoming the stranger, than by sharing our names with one another.

Top: "Singing, Supper, and Smores," a Families with Young Children event last July. Middle: This year's Purim Spiel, "Mamelah Mia! Dinner with Abba & Ima" featured the talents of members of all ages who told the story of Purim thought the music of Swedish pop-band ABBA. Bottom: (right) At Tot Simchat Torah, part of the Torah was unwrapped to show the children how the Torah is rolled and ready to begin again. Simchat Torah was also celebrated as TJM marched their Torahs to Beth Emet and we're welcomed at the corner of McCormick and Dempster by members of Beth Emet as the two congregations symbolically marched together to their new home.
Right: At Beth Emet Families Connect event in March, children and caregivers baked hamantaschen to distribute to members of our community and participated in a letter writing campaign to local, state, and national legislators. Left: The Blessing of the Animals, a TJM tradition brought to Beth Emet. Bottom: At the Renovation Dedication in September, Evanston Mayor Steve Haggerty, Skokie Mayor George Van Dusen, U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky, and Fourth Ward Alderman Don Wilson, unveil the new mezzuah outside of the Sanctuary.

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