Independent. Egalitarian. Transformational.
Dr. Rick Chess
House of Israel, where the milk is
a high-holiday veil cascading
in front of the ark and the honey is hard
candy scooped up from the bema by children.
Where a still voice stirs
the sanctuary illuminated
Congregation Beth Israel is proud to be Asheville's only independent, fully egalitarian, spiritual community. Together, we live out the meaning of our name: a "house for those who struggle with God." We believe the power of Jewish prayer is the unique state of "being alone, together".
We have a variety of ways to make it happen. Weekly Shabbat and holiday services, monthly Jewish meditation and family-based education that reminds us of our responsibility to ourselves, each other and the earth.
Pick one that works for you and join us.
"After many years of feeling an outsider because of my questions, I’ve finally found a place where my questions are not only respected but valued." -Linda Wolf
Weekly Shabbat Services
On the second and fourth Friday of each month, we usher in Shabbat with a warm and intimate Kabbalat Shabbat service from 6-7pm. The second Friday is all about kids and family. We sing simple songs with moving melodies selected from the traditional Kabbalat Shabbat service. We join together in uplifting singing and share space as families. The services are usually followed by a pot luck vegetarian dinner. The fourth Friday is typically a traditional-style service filled with heartfelt singing.
Shabbat morning services begin at 9:30am. We are a DIY congregation with a variety of lay leaders who pitch in to lead services and read Torah and chant Haftorah. Fully egalitarian, men and women participate equally. Throughout the school year, on the first Shabbat of each month the spaces surrounding the sanctuary are filled with children's voices and the sounds of Tot Shabbat (for the younger kids) and Junior congregation (for the older ones).
Most weeks, Rabbi Justin delivers the d'var Torah (sermon). On the last Shabbat of each month, the pulpit becomes community property with congregants encouraged to offer their take on the weekly Torah portion. Sometimes these featured speakers include individuals - Jewish and non-Jewish - within the wider Asheville community.
"I love that our weekly services are mostly lay-led and anyone / everyone is encouraged to take part in leading. There is such a difference between being just a spectator and a valued participant. I've never enjoyed services so much. I've never felt so welcome." -Patti Frankel
"My involvement with CBI provides purpose in my life because I value the friendships, appreciate the learning, contribute to making the world a better place, and have deepened my knowledge and practice of Judaism." -Caren Kessler
At its heart, Judaism is about mindfulness and living our lives with intentionality. The CBI Jewish Meditation Circle can help you achieve this. Open to beginners and experienced practitioners alike, it provides a loving and supportive community in which each of us gains insights that help us live in more loving, kind and compassionate ways.
We typically meet every other Sunday to chant our Jewish liturgy; practice active and restive forms of mindfulness; and discuss Jewish texts from the perspective of this contemplative practice. New to meditation? Don't worry, we're here to guide you through it and help you get the most out of it. We look forward to welcoming you into our circle.