Modern scholars have yet to write the definitive history of Jews in Brooklyn, but when they do, Congregation Beth Elohim (CBE), a Reform synagogue located in Park Slope, will figure prominently. The history of CBE typifies much of the American Jewish experience while further illuminating the broader narrative of the American immigrant experience and process of Americanization. Touching upon religious and cultural history, the CBE story is also woven into the history of Brooklyn and New York.
Throughout its 150-year history, CBE has been among Brooklyn’s largest and most influential Jewish congregations. As the congregation coalesced in the mid-19th century, its members synthesized their German roots with their American identity, growing and adapting their practice of Judaism and communal culture to the American context. These challenges shaped the congregation from its founding in downtown Brooklyn in 1861, through its relocation to Park Slope in 1909, to the challenges of constructing a second building, the Temple House, in 1929.
By the turn of the century, CBE had become one of the leading synagogues in Brooklyn, distinguished by its leaders, membership and programs. The leadership of CBE was also at the forefront of improving interfaith relations, among other achievements. For the course of the 20th century through the present, the story of CBE exemplifies the story of how immigrant Jews and their descendants remained grounded in their traditions while becoming an integral component of the wider community.
On March 26, 2021, Congregation Beth Elohim merged with Union Temple of Brooklyn. The merger marked a historic moment for two of the most prominent Reform synagogues in Brooklyn.