Congregation Beth Israel, in the hills of the northern Berkshires, is a community of families and individuals. We celebrate our Jewish Heritage,  study and practice our tradition, and search for spiritual meaning. Our community has a rich history and is inspired by many expressions of Judaism--from the traditional to the innovative.  We welcome all, Jewish families and interfaith families, gay and straight, singles and non-traditional families. Our services and social events are open to all. We welcome you to learn about uscontact usattend our services, and join our congregational family.
53 Lois Street - North Adams, Massachusettts 01247 - 413 663-5830
Founded 1893 - Member of the Union for Reform Judaism
See over 1800 photos of our community here.
Website Editor - Len Radin
Photo by Len Radin
Our Calendar and listing of events are here.
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Messages from the Rabbi During Covid-19
​Update: On Pandemic and Gathering - August 2020

Dear All,

We hope this note finds you as well as any of us can be in these pandemic times. Several of you have asked why CBI’s doors are not yet “open,” given that the viral load in MA is currently relatively low. The short answer is: because pikuach nefesh, preserving life, is a paramount Jewish value. We are keeping our offerings digital in order to keep each other safe.

In this moment, CBI is still offering all of our services (Shabbat and holidays) and classes via Zoom. The same is true of most synagogues around the nation. Current science shows that singing, even outdoors and masked, spreads viral particles and is not safe. We’ve also learned in recent months that being indoors with others where air is recirculated is especially dangerous.

We have watched as houses of worship around the nation have “reopened” for in-person gatherings… and then been obligated to close again because of covid-19. We do not want the virus to spread in our synagogue community. We’re also aware that the virus is especially dangerous to elders, to the immunocompromised, and to people with preexisting conditions.

For these reasons, as much as we miss being together in person, as of now our discernment continues to be that it’s better to gather digitally for prayer, holidays, and learning. That’s how we can do our part to limit the spread of the virus, and it is how we can keep each other safe in accordance with the core Jewish value of preserving and protecting life.

We are in regular contact with the URJ, with other synagogues in the county, and with clergy around the nation, and we will continue to learn everything we can about how to safely steward CBI through this. These are extraordinarily difficult times, and they ask us to rise to the occasion of taking care of each other by — for now — continuing to stay physically apart.

And: we hear that there is a desire to be together in person outdoors while we can safely do so. We are planning an outdoor, masked, socially distant, no-singing Shabbat morning service at CBI at 9:30am on September 5, led by Rabbi Rachel.

Please RSVP to let us know if you will attend that service so we know how many chairs to set up on our patio / outside the synagogue building. During that service, our bathrooms will be open for you to use at your own risk. (If it rains that day, we’ll offer services over Zoom instead.)

Our building remains closed for pandemic reasons. Our administrator Ollie Jones is reachable via e-mail and phone, as are both of us.

We hope you will join us on Sept. 5 outdoors, and on Zoom for Shabbat each week and for the Days of Awe. And keep an eye out for Rabbi Rachel’s weekly emails between now and Rosh Hashanah, which offer suggestions for how to make the most of Zoom community and prayer experiences. 

Being present to each other and to community is even more important in these pandemic times. We’re grateful to you for being a part of CBI.

Blessings to all,

Chris Kelly (for the Board of Directors) and Rabbi Rachel Barenblat



From Rabbi Rachel

Dear CBI Members and Friends,

What a joy it was to celebrate these Days of Awe with you. Your faces and your voices and your presences were so palpable, even across the distance between us. Thank you for being present and for bringing your open hearts to this unique high holiday adventure.

On Friday at sundown we will enter into the festival of Sukkot. After the hectic pace of the Days of Awe, Sukkot is a welcome opportunity to relax. The primary mitzvah of Sukkot is to dwell (or at least dine) in a sukkah for a week and to rejoice there.

Sukkot is a harvest festival. In antiquity this was one of the three great pilgrimage festivals when our ancestors would have taken the fruits of their harvest to the Temple in Jerusalem to offer them to God. Today we harvest memories, emotions, and experiences. What memories from the High Holidays do you want to bring with you into the sukkah this year?

Sukkot is an opportunity to remember the Exodus from Egypt, as the sukkah is meant to remind us of the temporary shelters in which our ancestors dwelled during the forty years of wandering.

Sukkot is also an opportunity to reflect on what’s temporary and what really lasts. We move for a week into these flimsy little houses (which must have roofs made of organic material through which one can see the full moon and the stars) in part to remind ourselves that even a beautiful and stable dwelling is ultimately as temporary as a sukkah… but if we cultivate faith and trust, we can know ourselves to be sheltered beneath the Divine Presence, even if our structures / our lives / our bodies don’t last forever.

And here in northern Berkshire, Sukkot is a glorious opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors during these beautiful days of fall.

Thanks to a group of wonderful volunteers, CBI’s beautiful sukkah will be set up before Shabbat begins.

“Our sukkah is your sukkah” — please come and take advantage of the CBI sukkah anytime during the coming week, day or night! Bring lunch to the CBI sukkah and dine there beneath the rustling cornstalks; bring dinner; bring your laptop and take a Zoom meeting from the sukkah; bring a bottle of wine and enjoy the moonlight; even bring a sleeping bag and camp out if you’re so inclined! The sukkah is here for you.

This year — because of the pandemic — we ask you to sign up to use the sukkah.

To sign up to use our sukkah, please click here!
This is so we can ensure that the sukkah isn't over-booked with people at any given time — and also so that we can do contract tracing after the holiday, if (God forbid) there is a need for such a thing. If you do encounter others in the sukkah, please keep an appropriate six-foot distance and wear a mask for extra protection of yourself and others.
That said, please don't let Covid-19 keep you away from our beautiful synagogue sukkah! We are fortunate to live where we do, and because the sukkah is outdoors in the fresh air, it is naturally well-ventilated, making it safer than any indoor space can be.

I wish you joy in this "season of our rejoicing." May Sukkot be rich and sweet for us all.

Blessings,

— Rabbi Rachel