Congregation Expands Its Membership Options

POTTSTOWN PA – In a shift from tradition, and a move intended to encourage greater participation, Congregation Hesed Shel Emet at 575 N. Keim St. this month announced new membership options that move it away from traditional income-based models used by synagogues since the mid-1960s and toward what it called a “voluntary giving” concept.

The change is in part a “response to the reality of economic pressure on family units,” according to Rabbi Ira Flax, the congregation’s spiritual leader since 2015. It has “embraced a membership structure that affirms the dignity of all who wish to participate,” he said.

The structure allows selection of “the level of financial commitment that works for the individual or the family,” Julia Katz – who was installed as congregation president in June – added. “From our beginning in 1892 to the present, a cornerstone of Congregation Hesed Shel Emet has been welcoming all who choose to be part of the Jewish faith,” she said. “We strive to maintain a spiritually and emotionally nourishing environment in which to celebrate Judaism in today’s world.”

The history of the Jewish population in Pottstown dates back to around 1844; Congregation Hesed Shel Emet formed in 1892. It celebrated its 125th anniversary last year. In addition to weekly services, the congregation has a religious education program for children ages 5-13; classes are held Saturday mornings and Tuesday afternoons.

The congregation in May 2016 sold its building to Bethel Community Church of Pottstown, founded in May 2015 by its pastor, the Rev. Dr. Vernon Ross. It now worships in a space it rents from the church.

Congregation Hesed Shel Emet will have a full schedule of services for the Jewish high holidays this fall. Guests are welcome at all high holiday services, as well as weekly Shabbat services. The congregation will host an outdoor celebration for the ritual of Tashlich on Friday, Sept. 14 (2018; Friday) at 5 p.m. in Pottstown’s Riverfront Park, College Drive, followed by dinner under the Schuylkill River Trail pavilion.

Information on the new membership structure, and a schedule of weekly and holiday services, can be found on the congregation’s website, here.

Photo from Congregation Hesed Shel Emet