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The Big 7-0: Temple Beth Sholom Celebrates 70 Years

The year was 1948. Israel was declared an independent state, a loaf of bread cost 14 cents and the President of the United States was Harry Truman—it’s also the year the oldest synagogue in southern Nevada, Temple Beth Sholom, opened its doors. Seven decades later, the temple has survived—and thrived—through up-and-down economies, changes in leadership and the evolution of approaches and technology.

On February 24, Temple Beth Sholom celebrated its 70th birthday with a big ‘70s disco-themed party complete with a disco ball, dancing and great food. During the event, the temple recognized 70 Members of Distinction and also provided a perfect chance to reflect on the significance of such a milestone. “I’m most proud of the fact that we have members so dedicated to the temple and that we’ve been able to survive in an atmosphere where it’s hard getting young people to join the synagogue,” Executive Director Carol Jeffries says. “Many of our members have been here for a long time and their grandchildren and great grandchildren are now becoming B’nai Mitzvah and members of our synagogue.”

So what’s Temple Beth Sholom’s secret to reaching 70 years? To Carol, one reason is due to the temple’s ability to adapt with the changing times, such as its use of social media to attract both young and older crowds through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. The temple also sends out weekly newsletters each Wednesday to update members on important news and upcoming events. “You can’t stay and be the same synagogue you were 70 years ago,” Carol says. “You need to cater to what your members are interested in and what the community needs so that you can evolve over time.”

Another reason for the temple’s longevity stems from its innovative approaches—one of those being its ability to keep young adults active in the synagogue. Temple Beth Sholom offers those who are between the ages of 20-29 a discounted “Young Professional” yearly fee so that new families just starting out in the workforce can afford to remain involved.

Rabbi Felipe Goodman channels his inner Gene Simmons at the 70th anniversary celebration.

“We have now begun to witness how children who grew up in our congregation are making their way back to us after college or graduate studies,” says Rabbi Felipe Goodman, who is closing in on 21 years at Temple Beth Sholom. “Many of them who are just starting to form families are seeking out our congregation as a point of reference, which did not happen in the past. It has been the result of a tremendous effort to keep them engaged and we mainly count on the relationships they formed with us throughout the years to keep them coming back.”

The road to 70 years has had its share of twists and turns, but for Temple Beth Sholom, the journey seems to be just beginning. “Many of the things we have accomplished throughout these years have been the result of rolling up our sleeves and really getting to work and build and experiment without being afraid to fail,” Rabbi Goodman says. “The motto, ‘We have always done it this way before’ has really played no role in my rabbinate and for that, I am very, very grateful.”

For more information on Temple Beth Sholom, visit here.


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