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


Participation Opportunties: Help Wanted

Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel views community service in the synagogue and the local Jewish and civic communities as an essential part of its mission.

Volunteer Opportunities in the Synagogue

To volunteer, contact the office at or by phone at 203.389.2108 x114.

  • Administration – Members are needed to serve on the work-groups, committees and board that steward and administer the congregation. Membership recruitment and retention, financial management, library services, ritual oversight are among the many areas that require eager and willing volunteers.
  • Office Tasks – Stuffing envelopes, photocopying, preparing mailings and similar clerical tasks are performed in the office, often with a small group of willing volunteers who want to keep their hands busy.
  • Building & Grounds Care, Maintenance and Renovation – The 32,000 square-foot building, built in 1959 and 1964, requires a great deal of attention, as does the grounds on which it stands. Skilled and unskilled volunteers are needed for every aspect of building management and operation, from planning renovations to raking leaves.
  • Green Team: Conservation & EnvironmentConservation, Environmental Awareness, Energy Efficiency, Recycling and related concerns are addressed by a concerned work-group, the Green Team.
  • Torah Readers & Prayer Leaders – All daily, Shabbat and Festival services are led by members. Tefila leaders and Torah readers are always needed. Shabbat and festival services are organized by a rotation schedule of service leaders. Classes and tutors are available to help those who want to learn to lead services or read Torah.
  • Daily Minyan Participation – Adult Jews are needed to form the quorem for daily morning, afternoon and evening services, and other adults and children are needed to help strengthen the community and fellowship every day of the year. A schedule of Daily & Festival Services describes the time and style of the tefila. Captains are needed to help organize daily services.
  • Master Chefs, Vegetable Choppers & Shoppers – Cooks, cleaners, shoppers and organizers are needed to participate in the four Qiddush Preparation Teams managed by the Qiddush Committee, and the same is needed for the Benei Mitzva Qiddush Committee. On most Shabbatot and festivals, the Congregation provides an extended qiddush presentation following the musaf services. Sponsors are needed as well.
  • Children’s Program Leaders – Children’s Shabbat programs are held every Shabbat and are led by members. Program leaders and participants are always needed. Shabbat and festival children’s programs are organized by a rotation schedule of children’s program leaders.
  • Hesed Committee – The Hesed Committee provides help to BEKI members and neighbors during times of transition and temporary need. The Committee provides meals to families welcoming a newborn into the home and to those recovering from a temporary disability. In addition, volunteers make occasional calls to BEKI members who may benefit from contact on account of illness or isolation. The Committee also provides meals to families during the shiva mourning period.
  • Kulanu for Adults with Special NeedsKulanu Havura is a project begun in the summer of 1997 to enable adults with developmental disabilities to live richer lives as Jews in their own homes and to participate more fully in the synagogue community. Kulanu Havura helps congregants become more aware of and sensitive to adults with special needs as one step in unifying the community to make it more worthy of God’s blessings. Kulanu Havura received major funding in 1997-1999 from the Jewish Foundation of Greater New Haven and Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel. It receives ongoing support from The David & Lillian Levine Endowment for People with Special Needs.

Community Service in Greater New Haven

  • Habitat for Humanity
    • Amity Cares – BEKI members’ continuing participation in Habitat for Humanity projects has constituted a significant accomplishment and contribution to the local community. Over sixty BEKI members participated in the Amity Cares build in 2005-2006. The residence on Winchester Avenue in New Haven was completed in April 2006. For information on the next build, contact theBEKI
    • Circle of Faith – Circle of Faith is a partnership program between local churches and synagogues and Habitat for Humanity of Greater New Haven. The congregations jointly adopt a project, called the Covenant Build. The build is either a new construction or the rehabilitation of an abandoned, dilapidated house. The churches and synagogues share in providing the necessary financial support and volunteer labor. The commitment is for the duration of the project and is renewable.
    • Habitat for Humanity of Greater New Haven is an affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, an ecumenical Christian ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty housing by creating homeownership opportunities for working, low-income families. Using volunteer labor and donated funds and materials, Habitat for Humanity rehabilitates abandoned properties and sells them to partner families at no-profit, via 0%-interest mortgages.
    • Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel joined Circle of Faith in March 2002. For information on the Congregation’s involvement, contact the office at (203) 389-2108 x14 or For information on Habitat for Humanity of Greater New Haven, call (203) 785-0794.
  • Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen (DESK) – Congregants participate as a group in the Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen on a monthly basis, providing food to New Haven area residents. See coverage in the BEKI Bulletin.
  • Abraham’s Tent – In 2012, the Congregation began participating in Abraham’s Tent, an initiative of Columbus House with the Interfaith Cooperative Ministries, to provide shelter and assitance to services to homeless people. See coverage in the BEKI Bulletin.
  • Food Collections – There’s almost always a barrel for collecting sealed food containers in the BEKI coatroom or lobby, and special appeals are made at holiday times. Surplus food from Synagogue events and private affairs are distributed through Rachel’s Table to local soup kitchens. Ma’ot Hittim funds are collected from Purim through Pesah to provide contributions to the Jewish Family Service, Connecticut Food Bank, Mazon, and other local and international programs to feed the hungry. A portion of contributions are reserved to include free meals to those in the neighborhood at Friday Night dinners and other Synagogue events.
  • Interfaith Cooperative Ministries – The Congregation is a formal and participating member of the Interfaith Cooperative Ministries (ICM), a coalition of New Haven religious communities and social service organizations. ICM supports a number of local programs to benefit the community. BEKI has been a member since 1997. For information on ICM, call (203) 776-9526. ICM was formerly known as Downtown Cooperative Ministries and has been working in and for New Haven since 1973.

History of Completed Service Projects

  • Covenant to Care: Adopt a Social Worker – Through Covenant to Care’s Adopt a Social Worker program, our congregation was matched with a child protection social worker in the City of New Haven. The congregation supported the worker to meet the needs of abused, neglected, and severely impoverished children in our community. BEKI participated in the program from August 2003 through 2005.
  • Beaver Ponds – BEKI members have joined with neighbors and local church, synagogue and mosque members under the leadership of BEKI Board Member Robert Forbes in a creative project to build bridges between neighborhoods, increase awareness of environmental concerns, and improve the quality of life for all by reclaiming Beaver Ponds Park. The Friends of Beaver Park, which Robert Forbes initiated early in 1997, has held several events and formed a working committee to further the agenda of reclaiming the once-abandoned urban treasure of the Beaver Ponds and the surrounding Park. Linking the ethnically-diverse neighborhoods of Beaver Hills, Dixwell and Newhallville, Beaver Ponds Park is becoming a vital meeting ground for residents who share common interests. A Tashlikh Service, a brief “casting of sins” ritual is held each year on Rosh HaShana (New Year) at the Pond.
  • AA Meeting – The We Are Here AA Group met weekly at BEKI from May 1997 to 2007. Open to any person who can benefit from a recovery program, the meeting was held according to standard AA procedure. For information on JACS refer to JACS: Jewish Alcoholics, Chemically Dependent Persons, and Significant Others.
  • Annual March Against Hunger – A contingent of BEKI members raised funds and participated in the annual “March Against Hunger” to support the Connecticut Food Bank for several years in the 1990s and 2000s. See the news story in the July-August 1998 issue of the BEKI Bulletin.
  • The WardrobeThe Wardrobe: A Collection of Women’s Professional Clothing is a project of the New Haven County Bar Foundation in collaboration with Congregation Beth El-Keser Israel and the Community Action Agency of New Haven. The Wardrobe provides women’s professional clothing without charge to participants in Community Action Agency of New Haven’s job training programs. This training assists women on welfare prepare to enter or re-enter the workplace. Participants in the programs need appropriate clothing to interview for jobs and to wear in an office setting. Under the leadership of BEKI members Carolyn Kohn, Mimi Glenn, Charlie Ludwig, Saul Bell and others, the Wardrobe was housed at BEKI during the Summer and Autumn of 1997. Located just blocks from the Community Action Agency, the Congregation provided a convenient and well-equiped venue for participants to find and try clothes stored in the synagogue building. See news story in BEKI Bulletin July 1997.

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