Welcome | About TBE
Our History & Building
“We didn’t want a larger building, but one that would enable us to better live our vision of a kehilah kedoshah, a sacred community.”
A Jewish community for learning, spirituality, and social justice.
Temple Beth Elohim credits its beginning to 22 women who, like many Jews in Boston after World War II, moved to the suburbs to raise their families. In 1949, they formed the Jewish Women’s Community Group of Wellesley mainly for social and cultural connections. In 1950, men became active as well, the group changed its name to the Jewish Community Group (JCG), and broadened its focus to include educational and religious initiatives.
The JCG quickly outgrew private homes for meeting spaces and were welcomed into local churches, the Friendly Aid Society, and Red Cross. After purchasing land on Bethel Road, Temple Beth Elohim opened its doors as a Reform congregation for 72 founding families in 1960. Despite two additions to the building, by 2000, the temple was not able to meet the educational and spiritual needs of 600 families.
In 2009, ground was broken to build a new home for more than 1,000 families. In 2010, a 42,000 square-foot new temple building opened its doors on the site of the former building’s parking lot—a glacial bowl encircled by trees.
Our Spiritual Home, Our Makom
Our makom is designed to engage members in our core values of learning, spirituality, and social justice. Seven key values drove the design of our accessible and green building: welcome, warmth, modesty, worship, education, nature, and Israel.
The building is open, both to nature and to our central hub two-story atrium—so that young and old share in the energy of daily activities. In our circular sanctuary, congregants face each other to enhance the experience of praying together. Front and rear outdoor courtyards offer space for worship, classes, community events, as well as casual conversation.
Come visit and take a tour. In addition to receiving a warm welcome, you’ll be greeted by one of our beautiful pieces of artwork, a large hanging sculpture of an almond blossom, a symbol of hope that appears many times in our scriptures, reminding us to start anew, care for others, and engage.
Temple Beth Elohim is home to the Rakovnik Torah, which was written in the year 1870 and comes from the town of Rakovnik, 20 miles west of Prague. The Rakovnik Torah is number 832 and is one of 1564 Czech Memorial sifrei Torah that constituted part of the valuables looted by the Nazis during World War II. These Torahs, which had been buried for safekeeping, were found and cared for by the Czech Government for many years.
Scroll number 832 arrived in Boston in 1973. It was carried into the sanctuary at TBE by Akiba Hermann, one of the youngest of 100 children to survive the Theresienstadt Concentration Camp. The Torah was consecrated into our congregation and installed in a display case in the atrium. In May 2005, on Yom HaShaoh, the Rakovnik Torah was re-dedicated and re-dressed and placed permanently with our other sifrei Torah in the sanctuary. Today, we include the Rakovnik Torah in the services celebrating the b’nei mitzvah of descendants of Holocaust survivors.
Learn more about the Rakovnik Torah at TBE on pages 86-87 in our Story of Temple Beth Elohim history book.