It began with a small advertisement in the Jewish Community Council Newsletter announcing an open meeting for those who were interested in establishing a Reform congregation in Bangor. The response was powerful.
Within a very short time, there were twenty-five families embarking on the journey of developing a synagogue together. Membership increased slowly but steadily, with folks coming to Bangor from as far away as Patten, Blue Hill, Bar Harbor, Penobscot, and Searsport. Together, they built a progressive Jewish community that felt like a home.
After years of wandering, Beth El purchased our building on French Street. We continue to be a diverse, regional community, comprising families and individuals from eastern Maine, northern Maine, New Brunswick, and seasonal members from even further away. We are always striving to capture our founders' do-it-yourself ethic, and to uphold their commitment to warm welcome and inclusivity.
If you are new to the area or just visiting, new to Judaism or just exploring, we hope you will find your way to Beth El. We're here for you.
Rabbi Sam Weiss joined Congregation Beth El in 2022.
He holds a B.A. in Rhetoric from the University of California, Berkeley and was ordained as a graduate of the New York Campus of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
Rabbi Darah Lerner served Congregation Beth El for over 17 years, sharing her love for Judaism and a commitment to Tikkun Olam/the repair of our world. She worked daily to create a sacred community here.
leadership and committees
Our Congregation is led by a diverse and enthusiastic group of volunteers who are passionate about Jewish life. Whether you serve on the board, join a committee, or just show up a little early for services, there are numerous ways to get involved.
2023-2024 BOARD MEMBERS
Provides support to community members who are ill, suffering a loss, or who are otherwise in need of a little extra care. Committee members make home visits, prepare and deliver food, organize shiva minyans and more. Contact chairperson Amy Fried to get involved.
Oversees our religious education program, ensuring that we are providing an engaging, joyful and nourishing environment in which to learn. Contact chairperson Adam Edward to share feedback and to get involved.
Works to keep our building warm, welcoming and secure. Members of the committee have been involved in everything from building shelves for our library to developing emergency safety protocols. To get involved, contact chairperson Eric Semmel .
Welcomes new families and individuals to the congregation, helping them to make connections with community members and to find their place at Beth El. For more information or to get involved, contact chairperson Kim Ross.
Imagines and plans special programs for our community and for the Jewish community at large. These have included guest lectures, musical performances, and more. To get involved or propose a program, contact chairperson Stu Kestenbaum.
Works with the rabbi to ensure that our Shabbat and holiday observances stay relevant, authentic, and reflective of our identity as a religiously progressive Jewish community. To get involved, or to share feedback, please contact chairperson Ron Blum.
Cooperates with congregants to make Shabbat, holiday, and lifecycle celebrations a delight. They do this by extending warm welcomes to newcomers, setting out festive oneg spreads, and much more. If you wish to sponsor an oneg, host a lifecycle celebration in our sanctuary, or join the committee, please contact chairperson Chris Roberts.
Social Action Committee
Pursues justice through a combination of discussion, reflection and social action. Through independent initiatives and collaborations with other local organizations, the committee works to realize the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam. Please contact chairperson Gerry Gross for more information and to get involved.
To contact anyone listed above, please reach out to our office.
Mike Pancoe - Finance Chair
Eric Semmel - House Committee Chair
Gerry Gross - Social Action Committee Chair
Stuart Kestenbaum - Programming Committee Chair
Chris Roberts - Social Committee Chair
Eddie Harrow - Hiddur Mitzvah
Harvey Walters - Member At Large
Mike Cohen - Member At Large
Melinda Wentworth - President
Sherri Carignan - Vice President
Gemma Perretta Scott - Treasurer
Sondra Siegel - Secretary
Ron Blum - Ritual Committee Chair
Jaden Diamond - Youth
Adam Edward - Education Committee Chair
Kim Ross - Membership Committee Chair
Rebecca Diamond - Media
We are a Reform Jewish community whose purpose is to create a welcoming and spiritually, socially, and geographically diverse congregation where members can explore and express Jewish religious beliefs and/or their own relationship to God; seek social, family, and cultural ties; learn together; and participate in social activism.