One New Locale, One Year Later — and Thriving



Fifty members of Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel's Blue Bell campus celebrated a momentous occasion on Aug. 25: their one-year anniversary. With a dinner and Shabbat service led by Assistant Rabbi Peter Rigler — and an Oneg with ice-cream and cake afterward — K.I.'s Blue Bell members commemorated an entire year at a new place of worship, though still as members of the long-established congregation in Elkins Park.

Keneseth Israel's new Blue Bell campus is thriving, with a congregation that boasts nearly 100 families, a Hebrew school and monthly Shabbat services. Rigler usually leads the monthly service, though occasionally, Senior Rabbi Lance Sussman or another member of the senior staff will step in.

The campus currently operates out of St. John Lutheran Church, and members say that the relationship is solid.

"It's been a wonderful partnership," said Andrew Flame, vice president of K.I. and a resident of Blue Bell.

"From the first phone call, the pastor was immediately interested in welcoming us, and it's worked very well, I think, for the church and for us."

Sussman, who's in his sixth year at the synagogue, stressed that it's not just the quantity of new members but the quality of the experience that is so significant.

"A community has developed," he said, describing it as full of "wonderful people who came ready to jump in with both feet, both hands, and be part of the synagogue."

The families have really taken the new campus to heart, and committees and activities have sprung up quickly.

"Over the course of the year, what has transpired is that we have out in Blue Bell now a really dynamic, dedicated group of congregants, who have slowly taken hold and taken ownership of the campus in such a tremendous way," said K.I. president Carey Roseman.

"It feels wonderful," added Sussman. "Brand-new people, who've just come into the congregation, are running Mitzvah Day projects, fundraising projects and all types of things."

According to the rabbi, the Jewish population has been moving farther and farther out into the suburbs in the past decade, which led K.I. to look at where it could expand.

When the congregation researched where families were moving, they saw the Blue Bell area as an opportunity for expansion.

"We believed there's a good number of unaffiliated families that would have interest in a Reform synagogue in the Bell Bell area," said Flame.

He added that there is currently no plan for K.I. in Elkins Park to move from its current location.

Above all, the goal of unity remains paramount for the Blue Bell campus and the K.I. facility in Elkins Park.

"We want to be one congregation," said Sussman.

Moreover, according to the rabbi, since the new campus has had such a successful first year, leaders have now begun a search for a permanent home in Blue Bell.

And as the campus begins its second year, it continues to grow.

"It's been a metamorphosis," said Roseman. "And we could not be happier."



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