The Early Years/Mount Airy
In 1954, several young families decided to establish a new Reform synagogue for the northwest neighborhoods of Philadelphia. They wanted a warm, welcoming congregation. Leading the charge was Al Wilson, of blessed memory, our founding President, whose vision still guides us today. Other founders were Janet Wilson, Bob & Dot Axelroth, George & Doris Binswanger, Sy & Ruth Fagan, Manny & Jane Kohn, Bill & Faye Levy, and Ed & Ruth Wolf.
The initial core group of families began recruiting more members, using word-of-mouth among family, neighbors and friends. Within a short period of time, the first families were financially able to rent a basement in a row house on Stenton Avenue in the Mt. Airy section of Philadelphia for services and meetings. The first services were held in January 1955. Reform Congregation Beth Or was accepted into the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now Union for Reform Judaism) in February 1955.
In 1955, Reform Congregation Beth Or moved to a three-story mansion in Mt. Airy on the corner of Mt. Pleasant Avenue and Anderson Street. In the early 1960s, the congregation began adding on to the mansion. Soon, Beth Or leaders knew they needed to establish themselves in the suburbs in order to attract new members.
Move to the Suburbs
In 1974, Beth Or moved to Spring House where we enjoyed many years of spiritual, educational and communal growth. Our worship services continued to be both spiritual and meaningful to today's society, schools were filled with students and our events were becoming more popular.
In the 1990s, it became apparent that we had outgrown the existing building. We needed a facility that would allow us to fulfill out mission as a religious community. In March of 2006, Beth Or moved to our current location in Maple Glen. This building has almost double the space of Beth Or Spring House (65,000 square feet rather than 33,000). In the Maple Glen building, Beth Or has the space to meet the diverse needs of our congregation.
Today at Beth Or
Beth Or continues to flourish and grow, well beyond the dreams and expectations of our founders. Today, Beth Or has more than 1,000 families and over 500 religious school students. We have the largest religious school in the area. Approximately 60 B'nai Mitzvah are called to Torah each year and 200 children attend our accredited Center for Early Childhood Education. Beth Or is on the leading edge of the Jewish community in the region, the Greater Philadelphia area, and the Reform movement.
We must never forget Al Wilson's vision and the commitment of the founders of Beth Or. We must never forget the sacrifice, vision and sweat of the 100 families who overcame many obstacles in the early 1970s to keep Beth Or afloat, then re-established in Spring House. And, we must never forget the vision of those who inspired the move to our curernt, larger campus. We look forward to the future and all of the possibilities it presents.