Our congregation has a membership of approximately 450 households. Our members come from nearly 20 surrounding towns, including Westborough, Northborough, Southborough, Shrewsbury, Hopkinton, Grafton, and Ashland, but also reaching south to Milford, and north to Hudson and beyond. Many choose to move to this part of Central Massachusetts for the quality of life, the excellent public school systems, and the work opportunities. Our Religious School has an annual enrollment of approximately 330 children, from K-12. Our students love being a part of our teen community beyond bar and bat mitzvah, with over 50 of them additionally working as madrichim (young leaders) to assist our teachers with younger grades.
We also have approximately a quarter of our membership who do not have school-aged children. And more people who are 55+ are moving into the area, sometimes to be closer to grandchildren, and we are creating more social and cultural opportunities to bring these members together in our congregation. Our membership includes many interfaith families, multi-ethnic families, and LGBTQ families. Our building is accessible to members with disabilities, and our Religious School staff includes a Special Needs Coordinator who works with our Rabbis to help us be as inclusive in the classroom and beyond as we can.
But these general descriptions of who we are can only say so much. So we thought we’d let our members tell you a little more about the experience of being a part of Congregation B’nai Shalom. Here are just a few of their stories.
We belong to Congregation B’nai Shalom because it is the center of a thriving Metro West Jewish community and plays an important role in our everyday lives as our kids are growing up. Belonging to CBS has allowed our family to meet and become friends with Jewish families from Westborough, where we live, and the surrounding towns. We joined before we had kids and attended some of the adult programs. Our participation grew when our kids were very young–the Early Childhood Committee was a wonderful resource to meet other families with similarly aged kids and features great programming. We are still very close with a number of families we met through Early Childhood. As our family has grown, our kids and we have enjoyed volunteer and other activities through the Religious School, including sleepovers, Mitzvah Days and field trips for the kids.
The Temple is very inclusive and open to ideas for programming, events, etc., and promotes volunteer-led leadership roles. These days our kids are busy with Religious School activities, and soon we will be gearing up for our oldest son’s Bar Mitzvah. CBS has played a consistent and integral role in our lives, and gives us a real sense of belonging to a community, even though we didn’t grow up in the area. Families, especially young and growing families, should look into CBS as a warm, welcoming congregation through which adults and children can form long-lasting friendships.
We are long-standing members of Congregation B’nai Shalom, having joined not long after the temple was founded. When we moved to Hopkinton in the mid-70’s, there were relatively few Jews living in this area, so we were pleased to learn there was a Reform Synagogue nearby (then on Charles Street in Westboro) with a small but active and growing Jewish membership. We wanted be a part of something that would reflect and enhance our Jewish identity, and also to have our son gain a good Jewish education. We joined and have been proud members of CBS ever since.
Together, we have been members or chairs of several committees at CBS, including Adult Education, Social Action, the Board of Directors and two rabbi search committees. We’ve seen our son become a Bar Mitzvah and one of us became an adult Bat Mitzvah. We’ve participated in many social action projects and activities over the years. We have attended classes in Jewish philosophy, Torah study, personal Jewish journey, and even one on the parallels between Jewish thought and popular science fiction! We have painted classrooms, run blood drives, planted shrubs in the courtyard, and re-covered the interior of the ark. And in 2014, we went on our first trip to Israel with about 20 other CBS members, creating memories and friendships we’ll always cherish.
Despite all this, there are many members of CBS who are more actively involved than we are, as well as those who are less so. This is one of the things we appreciate most about our synagogue; it enables each person to express his/her Jewish identity as they best see fit, to engage at whatever level they choose. It offers a huge array of religious, social action, educational and purely social opportunities, and we are always encouraged, but never pressured, to participate. Any potential new members can feel confident that CBS will strive to meet their needs, at whatever level of involvement they choose, in becoming part of a vibrant Jewish community in Central Massachusetts.
We chose Congregation B’nai Shalom because it is a friendly and inclusive reform congregation with an active youth program. We like that many of the congregants are interfaith couples, and B’nai Shalom makes everyone feel welcome.
The youth program includes religious school and Hebrew school, and an evening teen program with electives. We appreciate that there are activities and trips for teens post b’nai mitzvah to help keep them engaged and connected. The teachers, tutors, cantors, rabbis and madrichim (teen teaching assistants) are approachable and enthusiastic. Finally, we appreciate the many opportunities available to be involved in the congregation including adult classes, committee membership, special events, and guest speakers.
Shortly after moving to Shrewsbury in July I created a GoogleMap of Jewish congregations within 15 miles of my home. There were 7, so I called my former rabbi & asked which one I should join. He didn’t hesitate, “You want Westborough. Not too big or too small…and I hear the rabbi’s great.” When I spoke with Rabbi Gurevitz (English accents make me melt) she invited me to a new member open house that week. I’ve heard about this happening before & never believed it, but I entered the building, looked around, and honestly said to myself, “I’m home!” Even though I’m a single retiree I’ve made so many friends and have thrown myself into 6 different temple organizations. I wasn’t sure I was going to like living here, but recently told rabbi that I may move from Shrewsbury, but I will never leave this temple. She smiled & said, “We’ll grow old together!” I sincerely hope so.