Congregation Beth El–Keser Israel

85 Harrison Street, New Haven, CT 06515-1724 | P: 203.389.2108 |

Our banner is based on BEKI’s stained glass, designed in 2008 by Cynthia Beth Rubin. For information on this and other of Cynthia’s work, go to: <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. Artisan Fabrication by JC Glass of Branford, CT

BEKI In the News

Recent Stories

At Inauguration, Imam & Rabbi Pray For Justice,,  Jan 1, 2024
Rabbi Eric Woodward and Imam Omer Bajwa didn’t compare notes before giving back-to-back invocations at Monday’s mayoral inauguration. They didn’t need to — they knew what to say. And they had similar messages to impart.

Tasked with setting a spiritual tone to open the biannual inauguration of the city’s mayor and city/town clerk and Board of Alders as well as a member of the Board of Education, Woodward and Bajwa both led attendees with prayers for peace, for justice, and for officials new and old. Their joint message of peace came against a backdrop of strife over the war in Gaza, which has reverberated in New Haven as it has elsewhere around the country and world.

At BEKI, Anna Bresnick Traces Her Artistic Path,, August 30th, 2023
A blurry chandelier dissolves into the flimsy outline of a staircase against a backdrop of swirls of rich brown. This ink drawing—one of many similar works lining a narrow hallway inside Beth El–Keser Israel—depicts details from artist Anna Bresnick’s trip to Venice and Murano, a neighboring island known for its glassmaking.

High Holy Day Messages from Our Spiritual Leaders,, August 29,2023
Recently, Shalom New Haven asked our local clergy for their spiritual thoughts and guidance on the upcoming High Holy Day. Here is what several clergy had to say.

Jewish Art for the High Holy Days,, August 29,2023
“Off Our Walls” is the name of the fall show in the galleries at Beth El – Keser Israel [BEKI], organized by Helen Rosenberg, with input from other members of the Art Committee. The artwork, which is in various media as well as ritual objects, broadly reflects Jewish and Israeli history, scenes of Jerusalem, synagogues, holidays and practices, and biblical or cultural themes. The curator’s plan is that from the wealth of these resources, the viewer will be reminded of the complex and beautiful heritage of the Jewish people.

At BEKI, Landscapes Tell Stories Of “Chaos and Order”,, May 8, 2023
The lobby of Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel is now awash in various landscapes. Some swim in dark red pigment, treacherous features protruding around their edges. Others feel blissful, with a calm blue sky and gentle, cornfield-yellow terrain below. These landscapes are the work of Israeli-born, New Haven-based artist Dganit Zauberman, who for years has been working out of an Erector Square studio in the city’s Fair Haven neighborhood. Her exhibition Land in Flux runs at BEKI, 85 Harrison St., through June 14 of this year.

New Songleader Joins BEKI’s Religious School,, April 28, 2023
Although she never attended religious school, Rachel Beaver, the new music education director at BINA — Congregation Beth El —Keser Israel (BEKI)’s new religious school — says her role “feels right. This is what I’m supposed to be doing, and I’ve been enjoying it so much. This is a beautiful experience for my Jewish and musical growth.”

Amid CT’s antisemitism rise, New Haven rabbis offer ways to go forward: ‘Fear leads them to be brave’,, April 2, 2023
With a recent uptick in antisemitism some called “an unfortunate reality” for Jewish people, local rabbis offered perspectives beyond the need to ramp up security.

Senses Connect In An Artist’s Retrospective,, March 6th, 2023
Maybe the first thing you see is a black hole, an imperfect, sunken circle that looks like it could tunnel to the ends of the earth. Above it, clean slices of color turn it into an open eye. Green-and-red shapes bend and glow as they dance around the outer edge, worm-like and phosphorescent. A green-and-gold star explodes in the upper righthand corner of the paper. Ancient text blooms beneath all of it.

Youth Choir takes to singing at BEKI,, Jan 4, 2023
When Rachel Light came up with the idea of having the children of Beth El–Keser Israel [BEKI] sing at the March 2022 installation of Rabbi Eric Woodward, she didn’t realize she was launching what would become the congregation’s new Youth Choir. Rachel recruited Joshua Perry–who, like Rachel is a BEKI member and the leader of tefilah (prayer) at BEKI—to help, and they taught 15 children some songs.

Redesigning BEKI’s Sanctuary to Be Inclusive,, Sept 30, 2022
Congregation Beth El – Keser Israel in Westville is working with architect Michael Goldblum of Building Studio Architects to redesign the BEKI sanctuary. Built in 1959 for a congregation with a rabbi and cantor, a choir, and a formal, hierarchical style of services, it is no longer suited to the congregation, Carole Bass, sanctuary redesign co-chair, explained.

Change is coming to youth education at BEKI!,, July 5, 2022
When Ina Silverman announced her retirement as principal of Beth El-Keser IsraeI’s (BEKI) religious school after more than 20 years of service, the synagogue’s newly formed Education Visioning Committee set out to create a vision for youth education that matches the values of the BEKI community. 

BEKI takes aim at the ‘dark side’ of chocolate,, June 28, 2022
The Board of Directors of Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel has voted to require that all chocolate served at the synagogue carry certification stating that the chocolate has been screened against child slavery.

BEKI installs Eric Woodward as NEW congregation Rabbi,, May 13, 2022
It was a joyous, gift and music-filled gathering Sunday morning, March 26, as members of Westville’s Beth El-Keser Israel (BEKI) synagogue installed Eric Woodward as their new rabbi. 

At BEKI, Two Artists Channel Visions Of Home,, Apr 12, 2022
Upstairs at Congregation Beth El–Keser Israel, there is a long hallway where over a dozen handmade quilts of various shapes and sizes blanket the walls. They extend from the hallway into the main lobby, where they drape above the cushy brown couches. Below, on the basement level, hang five canvases so large and captivating they seem to become a part of the wall itself.

Beth El-Keser Israel installs Eric Woodward as the congregation’s new rabbi,, Apr 5, 2022
As we emerge – we dearly hope – from a mask-filled pandemic, one of the most important values to which we aspire is seeing and being seen, in the fullest spiritual sense. That idea was at the heart of a joyous, gift and music-filled gathering Sunday morning, March 26, as members of Westville’s Beth El-Keser Israel (BEKI) synagogue “installed” Eric Woodward as their new rabbi.

Purim is a family affair at BEKI!,, Apr 5, 2022
Families got in the Purim spirit last month for the very special Purim party hosted by Beth El-Keser Israel (BEKI) in New Haven.

Rabbi Successfully Installed,, Mar 27, 2022
As we emerge –- we dearly hope -– from a mask-filled pandemic, one of the most important values to which we aspire is seeing and being seen, in the fullest spiritual sense. That idea was at the heart of a joyous, gift and music-filled gathering Sunday morning as members of Westville’s Beth El-Keser Israel (BEKI) synagogue ​installed” Eric Woodward as their new rabbi.

The Art of Two women on display at BEKI,, Mar 16, 2022
The artwork of Suzanne Neusner and Naomi Safran-Hon are on exhibit at Beth El-Keser Israel (BEKI) now through June 4. Artists Suzanne Neusner’s Fiber Arts in the upstairs gallery space and Naomi Safran-Hon’s Going Home downstairs.

LESSON LEARNED: Not every Jew’s ‘bubbe’ made kugel,, Jan 12, 2022
I’m eight years old, riding in the car with my friend Sam and his mom. They’re both Jewish, too. It must have been December, since I remember Christmas lights on all the houses going through the hills in Los Angeles. Sam’s mother asks me inquisitively, “Eric, is your family going to have a Christmas tree this year?” The answer to that question was yes, but I was embarrassed by it, so I lied and said “no.” And then Sam asked me, “Your father’s not Jewish, right, but your mother is?” “Yes,” I answered. “Ok,” he wondered, “so technically you’re Jewish.”

A Beaver Hills Sculptor Carves Through The Chaos,, Jan 10, 2022
The curving marble looks out toward a viewer, flecks of pink, red and orange glistening from its surface. From one angle, a face emerges, wrapped in sturdy brown leather atop a pair of slim, twisting shoulders. At the crown of its head, a gold and purple yarmulke glows beneath the low light. Even in its place beside the men’s bathroom, even with these not-quite-tefillin wrapped wonkily, it feels sacred.

Thou Shalt Go With The Flow,, Dec 17, 2021
Artist Bruce Oren renders the face of Moses in fine detail in marble, from the wrinkles worn into his face to the weight of his eyelids. He conveys the heaviness of the tablets on his shoulders by the angle of his elbow, the definition of the muscles. But as we move away from Moses’s face, the details begin to grow coarser, until we see the edge of the block that Moses came from.

‘We survived’ Religious leaders: More people praying in person again, New Haven Register, Nov 28, 2021 NOTE: This article is only accessible by subscription.
God may be encountered anywhere for the faithful, but those who belong to religious communities say there’s a power in being among fellow worshipers, joining in prayer and song.

Conversation with Rabbi Ethan Tucker,, Oct 19, 2021
Rabbi Ethan Tucker will be the guest speaker at New Haven’s 5th Elm City Kallah, a collaboration of Beth El Keser Israel (BEKI), Westville Synagogue, and Congregation B’nai Jacob, to be held Oct. 29- 31.  The weekend’s theme is “Navigating the World as a Jew and a Human Being: A Weekend of Learning and Exploration.” “How we think of pluralism, integrity, and community is so crucial to our world today – not only as Jews but as human beings,” said Rabbi Eric Woodward of BEKI. “I’m so excited to get to learn from Rav Eitan at the Elm City Kallah.”

“It’s All About the Community”,, Aug 17, 2021
Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen (DESK) has sat nestled in the basement of the Center Church Parish House on Temple St. since the early-2000s, serving as a primary source of hot meals for those experiencing homelessness and adapting to the shifting needs necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic and a growing rate of food insecurity.

BEKI Reconnects With Ancestors,, Sep 21, 2021
It’s an old photograph, of three people walking hand in hand in hand down the street. All of them are in mid-stride. All of them are looking straight at the camera. One is in a suit, one in a dress, one in a military uniform. They have a story to tell, and what a story it is.

Beth-El Keser Israel: A Busy Fall for Kids & Teens,, Aug 16, 2021
Kids, teens, and their families are looking forward to a busy fall at BEKI. This season brings a mix of old and new, as the community returns to favorite traditions that weren’t possible last year, while finding new ways to connect, serve the world, and have fun. After a year of adapting to services outdoors, BEKI has restored its three separate children’s services every Shabbat morning.

Rosh Hashana brings bright future to New Haven synagogue and new rabbi: It was ‘meant to be’,, Sep. 5, 2021 [NOTE: article is behind a paywall]
Rabbi Eric Woodward plans to encourage the members of Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel to be their true, best selves, no matter how nontraditional that may be. However, when it comes to following Jewish laws and teaching, tradition is paramount.

A New Haven shul preps for a return to High Holy Day services — but first, some ‘emotional processing,, August 30, 2021
High Holiday services were supposed to be “normal” this year – held inside synagogue sanctuaries with maskless congregants thankful for the near end of the Covid-19 pandemic. But now with the Delta Variant and a rise in new Covid cases, some synagogues are still deciding whether to hold services inside or whether to resign themselves to another Zoom Jewish New Year.

Even without the Delta variant, Rabbi Eric Woodward of Beth El Keser Israel (BEKI) in New Haven had already planned “Processing Our Return to the Building: Our Hopes & Fears” — two discussion sessions that he hoped would allow BEKI members to share the different emotions they were experiencing regarding the prospect of gathering with their fellow congregants physically in the synagogue building.

A New Haven synagogue. A Nigerian Jewish community. A long distance love story.,, June 27, 2021
Earlier this month Rachel Bashevkin and Eric Dunsker packed up four boxes filled with prayer books that had been sitting unused in their synagogue, Congregation Beth El Keser Israel (BEKI) in New Haven. The 90 books – siddurim, machzorim (High Holiday prayerbooks) and chumashim (The Five Books of Moses)  – were destined to go to a congregation in need, with the help of Kulanu, an organization that helps “isolated, emerging, and returning Jewish communities” around the world through education, research, networking, and fundraising.

BEKI finds the right new rabbi in Eric Woodward,, June 15, 2021
Raised in an interfaith and mixed-race family in Los Angeles, Rabbi Eric Woodward says he knows “what it’s like to feel on the margins.” His mother Lisa is an Ashkenazic Jew, and his father Michael was raised Catholic by his mother Maria who immigrated at the age of six to the U.S. from Oaxaca, a state in the south of Mexico.

Welcome to Westville: Celebrating our Chapel Haven Community,, May 19, 2021
BEKI was included among other Westville businesses and organizations that make up the Westville Chapel Haven community.

Carl Astor Interim Rabbi,, May 13, 2021
Carl Astor, who moved to Westville with his wife, Sharon, three years ago, has been hired as Interim Rabbi at Beth El–Keser Israel (BEKI). Jon-Jay Tilsen, who has been BEKI’s rabbi since 1993, is on sabbatical until completing his term of service on August 14.

Barbara A. Rader Fund Reshaping BEKI Library,, Apr 29, 2021
Barbara Rader, who passed away in January 2020, was a voracious reader who frequently read more than 150 books per year. An active working member of the Friends of the Woodbridge Library, she earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in English and worked professionally as a book editor. She was also a longtime member of Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel’s (BEKI) board.

BEKI Kids and Families Connect in Creative Ways,, February 25, 2021
Over this long winter, as many of the pandemic-safe methods that communities used to stay connected in warmer weather have not been available, families at BEKI have been creative in finding alternative ways to maintain community and celebrate Jewish life.

Rabbi Jon-Jay Tilsen to leave BEKI, CT Jewish Ledger, February 9, 2021
Rabbi Jon-Jay Tilsen, spiritual leader of Congregation Beth El – Keser Israel (BEKI) in New Haven for the past 27 years, will leave the Conservative synagogue at the end of February.

BEKI Recognized with Community Service Award
(Please flip to page 19)

Reverse Tashlich’ for Rosh Hashanah: BEKI Kids Take Something Out of the River Rather Than Throwing Something In, Shalom New Haven, Winter 2020, Page 19
The ritual of tashlich on Rosh Hashanah usually involves throwing something into a river, such as breadcrumbs, to represent sins we want to avoid in the new year.

This year, to prepare for Rosh Hashanah, kids at BEKI did the opposite. On September 13, middle schoolers from the Kadima youth group, as well as younger children, cleaned the West River at West Rock Park. They spread out along the banks to pick up as much garbage as possible.

The Still Small Voice of God,, Apr 2020
Observant Jews in New Haven distill beauty and closeness from socially distanced religious practices.

At 10 a.m. on the Fourth of July, Esther Nash arrived at the parking lot of Congregation Beth El–Keser Israel in the Westville neighborhood of New Haven for Shabbat service. For three weeks, with new COVID-19 cases declining throughout the state, the synagogue at Harrison Street had been able to hold services in-person, albeit outdoors.

BEKI USY Helps Restore Shelters for the Homeless,, Aug 28 2020
On August 18, teens from Beth El-Keser Israel (BEKI) USY got their hands dirty as they spent the day helping restore living spaces for people facing homelessness, in partnership with the organization Christian Community Action (CCA).

Homemade Masks Added To Sunday Meals-To-Go,, Jun 1, 2020
Chapel on the Green, a program of Trinity Church on the Green, teamed up with a local synagogue to distribute masks Sunday in conjunction with a nearby soup kitchen.

BEKI hires youth and family programming director,, Apr 28, 2020
Anne Norman-Schiff, who is completing a Ph.D. in religious studies at Yale, has joined the professional staff of Beth El-Keser Israel (BEKI) as youth and family programming director, it was announced recently by BEKI President Yaron Lew. She will take up her new post on June 1.

Conversation With… Jael Silliman,, Feb 4, 2020
For more than two centuries, the Jews of Calcutta – now known as Kolkata (which is how Kolkata is referred to in this article) – flourished as prosperous traders and business owners, and experienced excellent relations with both the general Indian population and the British who colonized the country. The small but thriving community did not experience antisemitism in India and, in fact, helped to rescue a number of Jews fleeing Europe in World War II.

Conversation with Mark Oppenheimer,, Nov 25, 2019
Mark Oppenheimer describes himself as a writer, talker, father, husband, dog-owner, and challah baker. Though not necessarily in order of importance.

Challah baking aside, the talker in Oppenheimer will get to do just that on Sunday, Dec. 15, 10 a.m., at Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel in New Haven, when he is guest speaker at a book talk and brunch celebrating publication of his new book The Newish Jewish Encyclopedia, which he co-authored with Stephanie Butnick and Liel Leibovitz.

Synagogue Denied 65 Square Feet Of Light,, Sep 18, 2019
And New Haven’s zoning board proclaimed: Let there be light! Let there be signage! Let there even be halo-lit, illuminated signage. Only let it not be 65 square feet. That is forbidden. That was the three-to-one ruling from on high Tuesday night where four Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA) commissioners held court from the elevated wooden dais in the basement government sanctuary at 200 Orange St.

Beth El-Keser Israel Project for JFS Food Pantry,, May 10, 2019
One of the greatest mitzvot that a small community is capable of doing is coming together for Tikkun Olam (helping the world) and helping those in need. BEKI USY’s spring service project was working at the April 7 JCC Mitzvah Day, to which we invited USYers from the CT and MA region.

Amid Strike, Stop & Shop Foods Not Kosher For Passover, Says New Haven Rabbi,, April 19, 2019
Jews preparing their Passover meals this weekend may face an ethical dilemma if they plan on getting their food from Stop & Shop. Employees at the grocery store chain are on strike. One Connecticut rabbi says food isn’t kosher if you have to cross a picket line to buy it.

Let My Matzah Go: Stop & Shop Purchases Deemed Not Kosher For Passover,, April 15, 2019
In one hand he had his cell phone, with mom on the line for shopping advice. In the other hand was a handout with a Westville rabbi’s admonition against crossing a picket line to buy food for the Feast of Freedom. His basket was empty. There David stood amid walls of macaroons, white fish, and grape juice in Aisle 13 of the Amity Stop & Shop, pondering the fifth question added to this year’s traditional Passover four questions: To buy? Or not to buy?

Jews face having to find Passover foods without Stop & Shop,, April 12, 2019
The Stop & Shop at 112 Amity Road, which was open Friday but picketed by striking workers, offers a large selection of foods that are kosher for Passover because of the Jewish population in and near the Westville section, which isn’t as large as it once was but still is sizable. “I’m lucky in that I happen to have done a lot of my Passover shopping. To buy the rest I won’t cross the picket line,” said Rachel Bashevkin of Westville, who is on the board of Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel.

Her Mission: Preservation,, February 28, 2019
Christina Crowder spends a lot of time conserving and preserving — music, and the environment. An accomplished accordion player, Crowder preserves klezmer music, as a researcher, and as a performer. This Saturday night (March 2) her ensemble Bivolitz will perform the traditional Jewish Ashkenazic music at a concert at with special guest Julie Asuma Levene at Westville’s Congregation Beth El Keser Israel (BEKI) beginning at 7 p.m.

Adele Tyson, 94,, February 21, 2019
Following are excerpts from a eulogy delivered Thursday by Rabbi Jon-Jay Tilsen at the funeral of Adele Tyson, who grew up in the Hill and for decades was a lay leader at Congregation Beth El Keser Israel (BEKI), including serving as president.

In Westville, Hanukkah Banishes The, December 6th, 2018
The lyrics to songs in Yiddish and Ladino had been prepared. Powdered donuts waited on a nearby table. A gaggle of students faced the street, ready to loose a blessing from their lips. Musicians lifted their horns and woodwinds to their mouths, cheeks swelling with breath. 

Celebrating Hanukkah in Greater New Haven by honoring other cultures, New Haven Register, December 1, 2018
Aminah, a Syrian refugee chef who in two years has learned more than passable English and started her own catering business, will be joining the local Jewish community today to celebrate Hanukkah by demonstrating how to bake sufganiyot, Jewish jelly doughnuts.

Synagogues Through a, September 2018
“Through BEKI Eyes: Photographs of Synagogues by our Members” is an exhibition of a selection of synagogue photographs from around the world by members of Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel in New Haven that is on view at the New Haven synagogue through October.

BEKI Continues Long Tradition of InclusivityShalom New Haven, Sep 4, 2018
Last year, after the speeches had been delivered at the retirement luncheon for custodian Clarence Bromell, and dessert was about to be served, a BEKI member named Sandy Goldberg walked up to the microphone and said he too had something to say.

Honorable Menschen – BEKI’s Outstanding Volunteer Inspires Many, Shalom New Haven, July-August, 2018, pg. 13
“Oh, we can do this,” Darryl Rotman Kuperstock explained to a local reporter as volunteers served Christmas dinner to 150 people on the New Haven Green. In truth, the volunteers from area synagogues could do this only because of Darryl’s organizational skills. Darryl Rotman Kuperstock’s spreadsheets & volunteer efforts are legendary at BEKI.

Greater New Haven synagogues set up “Abraham’s Tent” to help the homelessJewish Ledger, 21 March, 2018
Ten men slept safe and sound last week at Beth El Keser Israel (BEKI) as part of Abraham’s Tent, a program in which faith communities around New Haven take in men experiencing homelessness during the winter months.

Congregation Sinai merges with BEKI, Jewish Ledger, 7 February, 2018
With its aging membership too small to stay open, Congregation Sinai of West Haven and Milford has closed after nearly 90 years, merging with Beth El-Keser Israel (BEKI) of New Haven.

The Jewish Forum with Barry Herman

Clarence Bromell Retires: On December 17, 2017, BEKI volunteers prepared a luncheon in honor of Clarence Bromell, who retired after nearly thirty years of service to the congregation. Photos courtesy of Allen Samuel.

Teen Shamashim Lead Services at BEKIShalom New Haven, 29 December 2017
When the ark needs to be opened and a Torah carried, who you gonna call? On Shabbat morning at Beth El – Keser Israel [BEKI], a group of teenagers decides. For the last 15 years, teen shamashim have selected people for all of the honors and have kept the service moving along.

BEKI Kadima, USY Groups Offer Exciting Activities | Jewish Federation of Greater New HavenShalom New Haven, 29 December 2017
Congregation BEKI Kadima and United Synagogue Youth (USY) are youth groups that empower Jewish students in middle school and high school to plan and participate in educational, religious, community service, and social events. These activities provide opportunities to build future Jewish community leaders.

Muslim refugee teaches Hanukkah doughnut-making at New Haven synagogue, New Haven Register, Monday, December 4, 2017

When it was time to make the doughnuts Sunday at Congregation Beth El—Keser Israel, a Muslim refugee from Syria took the kitchen lead. Aminah Mohammad Alsaleh, who arrived here from a refugee camp in Jordan a year ago with her husband and three young children, is trying to learn English, get a driver’s license and start a catering business.

More Stories

Video Reports of the 2 January 2017 Car Crash Incident at BEKI

Paul Bass interview Rabbi Tilsen on his visit to Standing Rock

Convention Week Advice from the Torah – Parashat Balaq July 2016

10 American Rabbis You Haven’t Heard Of, But Should, by Yair Rosenberg, September 2015

Hot off the Presses, New Haven Independent, 3 April 2015

Reaching the age of Moses: At 120, BEKI has much to be proud of, by Cindy Mindell, 13 July 2012

Rabbis Give Republicans an Out, by Paul Bass, New Haven Independent, 12 September 2012 (Video:  Vows Forgiven)

Making matzo for Passover in New Haven, Photo and video by Peter Hvizdak, 6 April 2012

Many Rooting for this Bar Mitzvah, by Pamela McLaughlin, New Haven Register, 26 October 2010

Through the Web, They’re Bringing People Together, New Haven Independent, 7 September 2010

Day of Awe Arrive Early, by Allan Appel, New Haven Independent, 2 September 2010

Here Came the Sun, New Haven Independent, 18 September 2007

Solar Rabbi’s Hannukah Message

All as One:  BEKI Program Reaches Out to Adults with Special Needs, by Dorine Leogrande, Connecticut Jewish Ledger, 13 March 1998, p. 3.

More BEKI News & Info

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