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Intro to TBB

Like Somerville, Temple B’nai Brith is in a constant process of reinvention.  Our congregation dates back to 1904 and our beautiful Byzantine Revival building dates back to 1919.  Every generation of our congregation has looked quite different from the ones before and after it.  We are a diverse and welcoming group of about 180 households, with a thriving Sunday school, and interesting, ever-changing programs.  We value urban life, inclusive community, and the wisdom and inspiration of our heritage.  We invite you to spend some time with us, and perhaps even help us to envision the next generation of Temple B’nai Brith.

Some of us love the traditional liturgy, and others prefer alternative forms of worship. Some of us love studying ancient wisdom literature, and others love science fiction and superheroes. Some come to shul to sing, and others to learn about Jewish history or mysticism or how to make a truly fabulous challah. Our community members range from the yeshiva-trained devout to science-minded atheists, and we all choose this eclectic, renewing form of Judaism.​

Our Clergy

Rabbi Eliana Jacobowitz

PictureRabbi Eliana Jacobowitz has been the rabbi of Temple B’nai Brith in Somerville, MA since her ordination from Hebrew College in 2010.  Born and raised in Israel, she studied law at Tel Aviv University, holds both a certificate in Fashion Design from Tel Aviv's Miriam College and an MA degree in Medieval History from Boston University.

For the past two decades, Eliana’s teaching has focused on Holocaust education and Jewish mysticism. She has been the facilitator of the Gvanim Leadership program of the AIC in Boston, as well as a guest lecturer on Judaism and Jewish mysticism at Simmons College, Boston College and Boston University. She is coeditor of the Hebrew translation of Arthur Green’s These are the Words, (Yedi’ot Acharonot, 2008).

On a less serious note, Eliana can be described as a pop culture loving nerd with extra appreciation of punk music and fantasy literature. She shares her home with her cat Shunra, and way too many sewing machines.

Read Rabbi Eliana's sermons here:

5784 Yom Kippur
5784 Kol Nidrei
5784 Rosh Hashanah Day 2
5784 Rosh Hashanah Day 1

 

PictureRabbi Eliana told her story to The Somerville Scout in January/February 2012.  Click here to read the Somerville Scout's profile of Rabbi Eliana!

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Phil Weiss, Darshan (seeker, inquirer, explainer) Emeritus

PictureA graduate of Columbia College, Phil earned his M.A. and Ph.D. (in Philosophy) at S.U.N.Y Stony Brook. Phil retired as Adjunct Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Wheelock College in 2019.

At Temple B'nai Brith, Phil participates in leading Shabbat and holiday services, as well as Jewish life cycle occasions.  Phil continues to provide individual tutoring to students preparing to celebrate becoming bar/bat miztzvah.

Phil is an inspired teacher as well as a student of Jewish thought, ethics, and world religions. His d'vrei Torah (Torah talks), sprinkled with wit and humor, reflect his study of metaphysics and the philosophy of religion, his affinity for Plato, Emerson, Thoreau, Nietzsche, and Whitehead, and his love of Jewish texts.

Five collections of his sermons for the Yamim Nora’im (Days of Awe) have been published by Temple B'nai Brith: Awesome!, More Awe!, God-Awful!, Awe Shucks!, and Awe-Spicious!

Our Board of Directors (2023-2024)

Officers
Liz Perlman, President 
Jeff Dwoskin, Vice-President
Brian Green, Vice-President, Chair of Ritual Committee
Rick Silberman, Vice-President, Chair of Finance Committee
Joshua Meltzer, Treasurer
Mark Niedergang, Secretary

Directors
Emily Ackman
Ian Boardman
Leigh Flannery-O’Sullivan
Brett Goldberg, Chair of Building Committee
Sabrina Kurtz-Rossi
Sara Lennox, Chair of Cemetery Committee
Larry Miller
Brian Morin-Wilson
​Amy Pasternack, Chair of School Committee
Ruby Poltorak
Randi Soltysiak
​Ellen Stone, Chair of Social Action Committee
Daniel Wolf
 
Ex-officio
Rabbi Eliana Jacobowitz
Darshan Emeritus Phil Weiss
Lisa Gregerman, Executive Director

 

Our Bylaws

Our History

Congregation B’nai Brith was founded in 1904 by immigrants from Eastern Europe. They had originally settled in Boston and Chelsea, and began moving further north and west. The Jewish community of Somerville clustered around Magoun Square and Winter Hill, so when it came time to build a synagogue, construction of our beautiful Byzantine Revival building began at the top of Central Street in 1919 and was completed in 1923. The beautiful hand-carved mahogany ark in the Morris and Ada Kleiman Sanctuary is one of the oldest in New England. It was transferred to Temple B’nai Brith in Somerville from The Baldwin Place Synagogue (Congregation Beth Israel) in Boston's North End that disbanded in 1920. In the decades following World War II, many of Somerville’s Jews prospered and moved to the suburbs. The congregation lost a generation. By the late 1970s, only a couple of dozen elderly members remained in the congregation, joined by the occasional student.

In 1980, a philosophy graduate student named Phil Weiss began attending Shabbat services at TBB.  Morris and Ada Kleiman, longtime members of the congregation, who owned a local pharmacy, were struggling to keep TBB going in the face of suburban drift and the retirement of Rabbi Leo Shubow.  The Kleimans asked Weiss to read Torah during Shabbat services, and soon he was leading all the services. Weiss, who also taught philosophy and religion at Wheelock College, served as the congregation's Darshan (teacher), until his retirement in 2019. We continue to enjoy the teaching of Phil Weiss today as our Darshan Emeritus.

Our congregation was originally affiliated with the Conservative movement, but with the retirement of Rabbi Shubow in 1978, the congregation dropped its affiliation. A new generation of young Jews found their way to TBB in the 80s and 90s, and reinvented the congregation with an exciting blend of traditional worship and inclusive, egalitarian values.

In 2008, the congregation hired Eliana Jacobowitz, an Israeli-born rabbinical student from Hebrew College, as its Children's School and Adult Education director. As she neared ordination in 2010, we hired her as our first full-time rabbi in 30 years, and we continue enjoy the leadership of Rabbi Eliana today. 

The reinvention of TBB continues as the current generation of greater-Somerville Jews finds its way to the shul on the hill.

Mon, June 17 2024 11 Sivan 5784