Jews have been living, working and worshipping in Lebanon for more than a century. Founded in 1907, the congregation has been an active participant in the Lebanon community.
Some of our current congregants are descendants of those original founders. Others are newcomers to our community, drawn by natural beauty of the area and the attraction of a less hectic, more relaxed lifestyle, which is still easily accessible to major cities of the Northeast: New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
When newcomers look for a “Jewish connection,” they find a synagogue dedicated to welcoming and involving them.
Beth Israel Today
Lebanon’s Jews are justifiably proud of their history here — a past that always has been distinguished by great vitality and visibility. At a time when conventional wisdom seems to point to the decline of “small town Jewry,” Beth Israel Congregation illustrates that Judaism can survive in the intimate family atmosphere afforded by the smaller Jewish community.
Because it is, and has always been, the only synagogue in the Lebanon area, Beth Israel respects the varieties of Jewish religious expression: Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructionist, and Reform. As a small congregation, we welcome and encourage the participation of every member in the various aspects of synagogue life.
It was not long after that first gathering of Lebanon’s Jews in 1907 that plans began to be formulated for a permanent place for Jewish worship. After eight years of worshipping in rented meeting halls at Eighth and Cumberland Streets, the congregation bought its first home at the corner of Cumberland and Old Cumberland Streets. By 1915, the handful of members had grown to 25 — not large in numbers, but big in imagination, spirit, and plans for the future.
Over the next 14 years, an ever increasing membership necessitated a series of moves to increasingly larger quarters. By 1929, the congregation now numbered 90, and the first real home was founded on Chestnut Street at the site which was later to become the original Lebanon Community Library. The congregation remained there until 1953, when the modern Beth Israel building at Oak and Eighth Streets was dedicated. Designed by widely-respected synagogue architect Percival Goodman, the building has become a local landmark and is a continuing source of pride to all of our members.
For many years the congregation has sponsored a spring Lecture Series which has brought such speakers as Elie Weisel, Alan Dershowitz, Lisa Meyers and Madam Sadat to Central Pennsylvania.
Our members are active in many civic organizations dedicated to improving the lives of others.