We are a small, active congregation, which is always growing, not only in size but also in spirit and community. We are proud of the warmth and friendliness enjoyed by our members and guests.
If you live in the area, we hope you will join Temple Beth Shalom. If you are visiting, please join us for our Shabbat worship, which is casual yet lively. Be prepared to sing!
If you have any further questions, although we do not have a full-time staff, please call us at (850) 862–6086, leave a message to which we'll respond OR e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org (which will get you a prompter response).
Temple Beth Shalom was organized as an outgrowth of the Jewish Community Center of Okaloosa County during the summer of 1985. The following November, Temple Beth Shalom was granted a charter as a member congregation by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), now the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), the organization which supports Reform Jewish congregations in North America.
Since then, our membership has steadily grown from the original 33 member families to well over 65.
In 1987, a section of the Fort Walton Beach Memorial Cemetery was designated for the use of the Jewish community. During a special ceremony, it was dedicated and consecrated as holy ground. During the interval between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a yearly Kever Avotim Memorial Service is held here.
With the continued growth of the congregation, we added our educational wing in 1988, almost doubling the size of the Temple. During Hanukkah of 1998, we dedicated a major expansion that doubled the size of the educational wing, enhanced the sanctuary and library, expanded the kitchen, added a Rabbi's study and a children’s “quiet room”.
The purpose of the congregation is threefold. First, it strives to promote the enduring and fundamental principles of Judaism and ensure the continuity of the Jewish people. Furthermore, it enables its adherents to develop a relationship with G-d through communal worship, study and assembly. Finally, it strives to apply the principles of Reform Judaism to the values and conduct of the individual, family, and the society in which we live.
We are the only Reform Jewish congregation in Fort Walton Beach and its surrounding communities, but we are sensitive to the needs of members from all backgrounds as our membership reflects this diversity.. Rituals, ceremonies and worship services are conducted in consonance with the Western world and the 21st century, while at the same time retaining the essential traditions of our long and great heritage. Our services are based on a traditional mode of worship and are conducted in English, augmented with Hebrew prayers. The URJ Mishkan T'Filah is used for all services except the High Holy Days, when we use the URJ Mishkan T'Shuvah.
As we do not at this time employ a full-time Rabbi, we participate in the Student Rabbi program coordinated by the Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion. Our Student Rabbis visit us during their school year from the HUC-JIR campuses in Cincinnati and New York City. When the Student Rabbi is not available, our competent cadre of Lay Leaders conduct the services. The Temple's monthly Bulletin provides a list of services and dates of the student rabbi's visits.
Kabbalat Shabbat services are held every Friday evening @ 6:30 PM, followed by a warm & welcoming Oneg Shabbat. Most Saturdays @ 10 AM, we hold Torah Study, during which we read and discuss the week's Portion, its Haftarah, upcoming holidays, and varied topics of Jewish interest.
For both, the dress is casual.
The Student Rabbi and Lay Cantor lead Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services. One day of Rosh Hashanah is observed in concert with the Reform Movement. Yom Kippur services begin with an evening Kol Nidre service and continue the next day with morning and afternoon services followed by a Break-the-Fast dinner.
A Community Passover Seder, led by the Student Rabbi, is held each spring. Other holiday services, which fall throughout the year, are led by the Student Rpabbi when they coincide with a scheduled visit.
In addition to regular Shabbat and holiday services, the Temple offers a Religious School for our children, a Jewish library for all ages, a monthly bulletin and Facebook page. Adult education includes both Torah/Tanach study, discussion and Hebrew lessons.
Social functions, coinciding with various Jewish Holidays, are held throughout the year. Members support an independent Hadassah chapter. We support the Jewish National Fund through tree purchases in Israel. The "Nite on the Town" dining out evening, discovering and enjoying the vast selection of cuisines in the area, is held approximately bi-monthly. Our Men's Breakfast Chavurah and Ladies' Luncheon Chavurah meet monthly for fellowship and discussion.
Through the generosity of the Steven Sandler family, a 'Holocaust' Torah, rescued by the Allies in 1945, was obtained through the Czech Memorial Scrolls Project of the Westminster Synagogue, London, UK. This Torah, which dates from the year 1800 C.E., previously belonged to a synagogue in Ledec, Bohemia, the Czech Republic, a community dating back to the 17th century. The Ledec Jewish community was liquidated by the Nazis in 1942. We remember the people of Ledec with a perpetual light on our memorial board and with a special Kaddish during Yom Kippur Yizkor.
Until a new Torah was purchased in 1992, Congregation Adath Jeshurun, of Louisville, KY, generously loaned us one of theirs. Irvin Cohen, one of our charter members, arranged for this loan.