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 and Dot Axelroth, George & Doris Binswanger, Sy & Ruth Fagan, Manny and Jane Kohn, Bill & Faye Levy, and Ed and 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.
Our Move to the Suburbs
In 1974, Beth Or moved to our location in 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 our 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 new building, Beth Or finally has the space to meet the diverse needs of its 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 1,100 families and over 700 religious school students. We have the largest religious school in the area. Approximately 100 B’nai Mitzvah are called to Torah each year and 200 children attend the Center for Early Childhood Education at Beth Or. Beth Or now is on the leading edge of the Jewish community in the Bux-Mont 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. We look forward to the future and all the possibilities it presents.