×

Northampton’s reform synagogue celebrates 20 years

  • Marlene Rachelle, left, of Florence leads “Bim Bam Ahavah”, a music and play session for children from birth to age 4, as part of the reform synagogue’s 20th anniversary celebrations in Florence, Saturday. Joining in are Caolan O’Laughlin and Rebecca Herskovitz, seated, of Florence and their children Lev, standing, 2, and Meirav, 3, and Sebastian McMahon, foreground, 2, of Northampton. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Judy Goldman, the founder of Beit Ahavah, at her home in Williamsburg. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Rabbi Raquel S. (Riqi) Kosovske of Beit Ahavah leads an adult Torah study before a Shabbat service at the reform synagogue in Florence on Saturday, May 12, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Rabbi Raquel S. (Riqi) Kosovske, center, of Beit Ahavah prepares to lead a Shabbat morning musical service and Torah reading with guitarist Marlene Rachelle, right, as the reform synagogue celebrates its 20th anniversary, or "Ahaversary", in Florence on Saturday, May 12, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Rabbi Raquel S. (Riqi) Kosovske of Beit Ahavah prepares to lead a Shabbat morning musical service and Torah reading in Florence as part of the reform synagogue’s 20th anniversary, or “Ahaversary,” on Saturday. GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Judy Goldman, the founder of Beit Ahavah, at her home in Williamsburg. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Judy Goldman, the founder of Beit Ahavah, at her home in Williamsburg. —GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Judy Goldman, the founder of Beit Ahavah, at her home in Williamsburg. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Caolan O'Laughlin and Rebecca Herskovitz and their children Lev, 2, and Meirav, 3, of Florence take part in "Bim Bam Ahavah", a children's music and play session lead by Marlene Rachelle, during the reform synagogue's 20th anniversary celebrations in Florence on Saturday, May 12, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Marlene Rachelle, center, leads "Bim Bam Ahavah", a music and play session for children aged zero to four, as part of the reform synagogue's 20th anniversary celebrations in Florence on Saturday, May 12, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Marlene Rachelle, right, of Florence pauses to tell a story during "Bim Bam Ahavah", a music and play session for children from ages zero to four, as part of the reform synagogue's 20th anniversary celebrations in Florence on Saturday, May 12, 2018. At left are Rich Parr and daughter Beatrix, 2 1/2, of Florence. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING

  • Rabbi Raquel S. (Riqi) Kosovske, left, of Beit Ahavah, chats with a congregant before leading a Shabbat morning musical service and Torah reading as part of the reform synagogue's celebration of its 20th anniversary, or "Ahaversary", in Florence on Saturday, May 12, 2018. —GAZETTE STAFF / KEVIN GUTTING



@ecutts_HG
Sunday, May 13, 2018

It’s part magic and part hard work that has allowed Beit Ahavah, the reform synagogue of greater Northampton, to reach 20 years, according to one of its founders.

On Saturday, congregants gathered in Easthampton to mark the occasion with a dance party and a celebration they dubbed “Beit Ahaversary.”

Twenty years ago, the congregation started in Judy Goldman and Sheldon Snodgrass’ Williamsburg living room. Now the congregation shares a building with the Florence Congregational Church.

“I sure hoped it would last and I really didn’t project 20 years out. We were just, at the time, going day by day, week by week, as we created the congregation,” Goldman said. “I am extremely excited about the 20-year anniversary.”

Goldman said she feels “very fulfilled” that the congregation has not only survived, but become an important Jewish institution in the Valley “for people who have found their home, their Jewish home.”

For the last two decades, Goldman said, the congregation needed lots of volunteers to grow into the community it has become. She said “many people brought their own hearts and souls to that growth.” She said she is most proud when walking into services during the High Holidays to a full sanctuary.

“There is a chorus singing beautiful melodies and the Torah is open and everyone there is experiencing a sense of their own connection to Judaism and a sense of meaningfulness and the experience of worshiping together,” she said. “Those moments are my most proud and joyful moments, because I see that Beit Ahavah is fulfilling a need in our community for people who might not have another place to go or might not go anywhere on the holidays.”

The congregation’s current co-president, Stephanie Pick, said she joined 15 years ago. At the time, she had young children and felt that she was missing something spiritual for her family. The congregation is known for its welcoming spirit and relaxed atmosphere as well as its inclusion of all people and its focus on “tikkun olam” — repairing the world.

Pick said she was drawn in by Beit Ahavah, where she said people have room to express their own view about what they want their spirituality and religion to be. Throughout the years, Pick said, there have been times when they’ve looked at their budget and wondered how they would pull it off, but they have.

“It’s reassuring, it’s exciting,” Pick said of the celebration.

Like Pick, co-president Robert Harris joined when his daughter was young and he wanted to get her more involved in Judaism.

“That sort of got me back in touch with my own Judaism,” Harris said. “It seemed like the right place for me.”

He said he started going and found that at the small and developing congregation there was room to shape its future. Still, he didn’t think one day he would help lead it.

For Megan Zinn, Beit Ahavah is family. Her family joined almost 16 years ago after moving to Northampton from Belchertown.

“It’s a place where I always feel comfortable,” she said.

In advance of the celebration, Goldman said there was a feeling of gratitude that the congregation has grown and offered a Jewish spiritual home to those who have come looking for their place.

“I’m most looking forward to the celebration, the vibe, the joy of having created community and a Jewish life here in the Valley for 20 years. I think that is a lot to celebrate,” Goldman said. “Many synagogues don’t make it and we’ve magically made it and we continue to thrive and that is a great thing. That is such a beautiful thing.”

Emily Cutts can be reached at ecutts@gazettenet.com.