New Reform temple evolves from Pasco chavurah
Temple Beth Chai David was formed in late June as an independent Reform congregation led by Rabbi David Levin, who recently ended a one-year contract as rabbi of Congregation B’nai Emmunah in Tarpon Springs. Levin said he and B’nai Emmunah seemed to be going in different directions, so he parted, but added that Emmunah “is a nice congregation and I very much wish them well.”
The new congregation is holding weekly services Friday nights at Quality Inn and Suites, 5316 U.S. 19 in New Port Richey. It is drawing 50 to 60 people, including about 20 children, to its services, he said,
The new temple will offer a religious school this fall and also plans to offer a variety of social, religious and community activities. He said a bar mitzvah, a bat mitzvah and a wedding are planned and that a youth group will be formed at the new temple.
Rabbi Levin said Beth Chai David is looking for a permanent home in north Pinellas County, but might consider Pasco County.
“It is not our intention to encroach on any other congregation and try to bring their members to us. It is not part of our plan. We just want to reach out to any unaffiliated members,” he said.
“As a congregation, we will be warmly open to the traditional riches of the Jewish past while looking for ways to build a creative and meaningful Jewish future,” he said. “This congregation will view itself as a community of members who support one another in times of difficulty and share life’s blessings at times of joy and work together to bring about tikkun olam.”
For the High Holidays, the temple has rented Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater for both Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur services. The temple is advertising that there are “no tickets, open seating, donations accepted” at those services.
The new congregation began as a chavurah, which literally means a circle of friends, holding its first service on June 25, 2010, in Port Richey, said founder Marilyn Shinbein of Hudson.
Rabbi Levin, then of Congregation Beth David of Spring Hill, was guest speaker at the service and has been leading the chavurah ever since. When Rabbi Levin became spiritual leader of B’nai Emmunah, the chavurah met there for a couple of months, but it did not work out, Shinbein said, so the group continued meeting monthly elsewhere.
Thanks to a benefactor, the new temple is able to hold services weekly and can afford to pay Rabbi Levin a salary, Shinbein said. The congregation has use of a Holocaust era Torah.
Membership is free, but in about a year, Beth Chai David hopes to begin charging a nominal fee, perhaps $200 per couple, Shinbein said.
Rabbi Levin was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. Among his rabbinical posts through the years has been the Southwest Orlando Jewish Congregation in Orlando, the Jewish Community Center of West Pasco and Temple B’nai Jacob in Fort Wayne, IN.
He and his wife, Phyllis, have one daughter, Arlette, who is an opera singer. She is also a cantor and teaches Hebrew. She will be guest cantorial soloist at the High Holidays services and will teach at the religious school.
For more information, contact Shinbein at (727) 697-3982 or Vickie Brthel-Blaustein at (352) 428-2280.