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Last modified: February 19, 2008
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Beth Israel is the second-oldest congregation in Delaware County. It is also the oldest Reconstructionist congregation in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. We have a proud legacy to pass on to future generations.
1925 - A group of dedicated Jews in Media, Pennsylvania, met to form the town's first Jewish congregation. The first High Holy Day services were held in 1926 in a vacant store on Orange Street.
1929 - On April 6, Beth Israel Congregation of Media was granted a charter by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
1938 - After years of meeting in a variety of locations and being known by members as the "folding chair synagogue," Beth Israel acquired its first home, a two-story structure that originally housed a school for the Religious Society of Friends.
1940s - The religious ritual shifted from a more Orthodox form to allow mixed seating. Women were still not permitted on the bimah. Services were led by male members of the congregation until 1948, when the congregation began to engage rabbis from the Yeshiva University Synagogue Council.
1950s - Membership grew to 70 families. A Hebrew school was formed. A lively social program included dances, card and bingo parties and an Annual Cabaret Night, sponsored by the Men's Club. 1n 1957, the synagogue hired its first full-time rabbi, a graduate of Yeshiva University.
1960s - Membership declined due to the deterioration of the building, shifts in the Jewish population and the appeal of local Conservative synagogues. By 1969, the total membership was 33 families.
1970s - After a struggle with various alternatives, including closing or merging, Beth Israel affiliated with the Reconstructionist Movement in 1972 and hired its first part-time Reconstructionist rabbi. Improvements were made to the building. In 1978, the first woman president of the congregation was elected.
1980s - The congregation hired its first full-time Reconstructionist rabbi. Beth Israel continued its strong affiliation with the Reconstructionist movement and continued to attract a diverse population. As the community outgrew the building, High Holy Day services began to be held at Ridley Creek State Park.
1990s - In 1997, the congregation had a procession to carry its Torahs to its new building on Middletown Road. The procession was led by its newly hired rabbi, Linda T. Potemken. The building offers ample and flexible space for the community's many activities and innovative services.
2000s - The congregation continues to attract a diverse population from Delaware, Chester and Montgomery Counties as well as from Delaware and New Jersey.