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Birthplace of Reform

Beth Elohim is acknowledged as the birthplace of Reform Judaism in the United States. In 1824, a sizable group of congregants, 47 in number, petitioned the Adjunta ( the trustees) to change the Sephardic Orthodox liturgy. The petition, which asked abridgement of the Hebrew ritual, English translation of the prayers, and a sermon in English was denied. The disappointed liberal members thereupon resigned from the congregation and organized "The Reformed Society of Israelites." The society, influenced by the ideas of Hamburg Reform congregation, the leading modernist community in Europe, lasted only nine years, but many of its practices and principles have become part of today's Reform Judaism. The progressives rejoined the old congregation, and while the present temple was being built in 1840, an organ was installed. With the first service in the new temple a liberalized ritual was introduced and aside from being the first synagogue in America to include instrumental music in worship, Beth Elohim became in 1841 the first Reform Congregation in the United States. It was one of the founding synagogues of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations in 1873 and has remained firmly and proudly committed to Reform Judaism to this day.