Temple Beth-El (Great Neck, New York)

Temple Beth-El is a Reform Jewish synagogue located at 5 Old Mill Road in the village of Great Neck, Long Island, Nassau County, New York, in the United States. Founded in 1928, it is the oldest synagogue in Great Neck.[1]

Temple Beth-El
Entrance to Beth-El synagogue in 2022
AffiliationReform Judaism
Ecclesiastical or organisational statusSynagogue
  • Rabbi A. Brian Stoller
Location5 Old Mill Road, Great Neck, Long Island, Nassau County, New York
CountryUnited States
Temple Beth-El (Great Neck, New York) is located in Long Island
Temple Beth-El (Great Neck, New York)
Location in Long Island, New York
Geographic coordinates40°47′53″N 73°44′10″W / 40.797923°N 73.736117°W / 40.797923; -73.736117
Date established1928 (as a congregation)

As of 2009, it had a membership of 875 families. Since 2023, the senior rabbi is A. Brian Stoller. Their cantor is Adam Davis. Their cantor emerita is Lisa Hest, the mother of singer-songwriter Ari Hest.[2]



The temple was founded in 1928 when 86 organizing members began meeting at local church. Rabbi David Goodis served as the congregation's first rabbi, but was in that role only briefly before he died in 1930. His successor, Rabbi Jacob Phillip Rudin, served for four decades establishing the temple as one of the most prominent synagogues in the United States.

The temple erected its original building on Old Mill Road in 1932. The temple began an adult study program that later became a Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion extension program. The building expanded in 1950, and again in 1970. Rabbi Rudin retired in 1971; Rabbi Jerome Davidson, who had been assistant rabbi since 1958, took over[3] and served as senior rabbi until 2007.[4] Rabbi Davidson's son, Rabbi Joshua Davidson, born in the Great Neck congregation, went on to lead Congregation Emanu-El of New York.[5]

Some members of the congregation left in 1940 to form a Conservative synagogue, Temple Israel of Great Neck, which was led for many years by the prominent rabbi Mordecai Waxman. A Reform spinoff, Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, formed in 1953.[3]

The original Temple building was enlarged three times during the past 60 years. It went through drastic renovation due to a fire that damaged some of the property. Since the fire, Temple Beth-El has continued to go through renovations.

In 1994 the congregation hired Karen Bender, a lesbian, as an assistant rabbi.[6] When she and her life partner decided to celebrate a commitment ceremony in California, Davidson agreed to officiate at a blessing ceremony at Temple Beth-el.[7] Controversy within the congregation over this decision led to Davidson's well-publicized decision not only to continue to officiate for gay unions, but also to begin officiating at interfaith weddings[8] and to push for the Reform rabbinate to pursue means of Jewish support for mixed marriages.[9]

Temple Beth-El of Great Neck has a rich cantorial tradition.[citation needed] Cantors who have served at the temple include: John P. Hardt, Robert Harmon, Robert Bloch,[10] and Barbara Ostfeld, the first woman to be ordained a cantor. Additionally, Temple Beth-El of Great Neck's Early Childhood Education Center is award winning and led by Karen Wasserman.

Notable members



  1. ^ Goldstein, Judith S. (2006). Inventing Great Neck: Jewish Identity and the American Dream. Rutgers University Press. pp. 68 et passim. ISBN 978-0813538846 – via Google Books (excerpts only).
  2. ^ Strauss, Elissa (June 1, 2007). "Hest hits the road". The Jewish Daily Forward.
  3. ^ a b Olitzky, Kerry M. (1996). "Temple Beth-El, Reform". The American Synagogue: A Historical Dictionary and Sourcebook. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 233–235. ISBN 978-0313288562 – via Google Books (excerpts only).
  4. ^ Weiner, Julie (March 18, 2013). "Temple Emanu-El Hires Joshua Davidson As Senior Rabbi". The Jewish Week. Retrieved March 19, 2015.
  5. ^ a b Wilbur, Martin (March 22, 2013). "Chappaqua Synagogue's Rabbi Moving On to Famed Temple Emanu-El". The Examiner News.
  6. ^ Timari, Daniella (May 30, 1999). "Lesbian Rabbi To Be Installed". Hartford Courant. Archived from the original on April 2, 2015. Retrieved March 19, 2015.
  7. ^ Bell, Charles (April 1, 2001). "Reform Rabbis Make Sane Sex Rites Legit". Daily News. Retrieved March 19, 2015.
  8. ^ Kaplan, Dana Evan (2003). American Reform Judaism: An Introduction. Rutgers University Press. pp. 228–229. ISBN 978-0813542485 – via Google Books (excerpts only).
  9. ^ Fishkoff, Sue (July 2, 2006). "Reform rabbis debate intermarriage". Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
  10. ^ "Cantor Robert Bloch Weds Miss Pollack". The New York Times. October 9, 1972. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 26, 2022.
  11. ^ "Sol Atlas, 'Miracle' Builder". Newsday. August 1, 1973 – via Newspapers.com.
  12. ^ Prial, Frank J. (May 18, 1984). "Andy Kaufman, A Comedian Known for Unorthodox Skits". The New York Times.