The Past and Future

Categories: Blog


(By Roslyn Haikin & Joseph Chesnick, Jr., “Be a Blessing” Co-Chairs)

“Let us congratulate the first congregation of Texas…”

The Occident – Philadelphia, PA, 1854.

Think about that.

We belong to the first and oldest Jewish congregation in the State of Texas. Nine years after Texas joined the Union, six years before the Civil War, and when our state’s population numbered approximately 220,000 people, including a few hundred Jews, twenty-two of our forbearers laid the foundation on which we continue to pray, commune, mourn and celebrate. And as Beth Israel begins its 160th year, we can only imagine the looks on the founders’ faces if they walked into our Temple today and witnessed their once small Jewish community turned into one of the United States’ premier Reform Jewish congregations.

With the past firmly in our hearts and future sutured to our souls, we eagerly agreed to serve as co-chairs of Beth Israel’s 160th Anniversary “Be a Blessing” initiative, an opportunity not only to celebrate but to lay our foundation for those that follow.  Speaking of the past, one highlight of the upcoming anniversary year includes a chance to learn about the early development of our Jewish forbearers through guided tours of Beth Israel’s historical West Dallas cemetery and beautiful art-deco mausoleum. Additionally, we will hold a special worship service at the Holman Street Sanctuary, our congregation’s home prior to 1967, which remains a beautiful architectural edifice.

Regarding the future? We cannot express our excitement at a “once-in-a-generation” chance to perform a mitzvah that unifies Beth Israel with a cherished legacy for generations to come. Our People’s Torah project allows members to help complete Beth Israel’s new Torah by filling in an outlined letter with the assistance of our Torah scribe and dedicate meaningful letters, verses, portions, or other selections  in honor or memory of a loved one.

Please don’t hesitate to select your date and time slot by visiting Information on dedication opportunities, which helps secure Beth Israel for years to come, is available as well. Finally, many meaningful “Be a Blessing” programs require volunteers. If interested, please visit

Roz & Joe
“Be a Blessing”

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