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    Everything you want to know about TBI. 

We’ll try to answer the most frequently asked questions you may have when considering – or joining – a new temple.  Every question deserves a thoughtful answer, even those like whether you have to be a member to visit (you don't), whether we wear suits to services (most don't), and what to do with your phone (short story - keep it silent)!

How long has Temple Beth Israel been on Longboat Key?

TBI was founded in 1978  by a small group of Jewish families who met in a living room on Longboat Key. The group first met in homes, and then in community rooms of the Coast Savings Bank and St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church. In 1982, as our numbers grew, we built our own home. Today, TBI remains the only synagogue on the island, still operating in its original location at 567 Bay Isles Road. 

 

What denomination is TBI?

Temple Beth Israel is a Reform synagogue and a proud member of the Union for Reform Judaism. 

In a few words, what does Temple Beth Israel stand for?

Our Vision says it all: Temple Beth Israel opens doors to a richer and more meaningful life, where friendship, spiritual growth, community engagement, the pursuit of social justice and learning, and the celebration of Jewish culture fulfill our lives.

My family is interfaith.  Are we still welcome?

Absolutely! We want you and all your family members to feel at home, and your entire family – Jewish and non-Jewish alike – are welcome at all TBI religious services, educational, and social programs and events.  

Our prayer books have full English translations and transliterations of important prayers and blessings, while the Rabbi offers context and explanation throughout.  Every member, regardless of faith, is welcome to join in communal recitation of Jewish prayers.  In addition, several parts of the service are open to everyone to lead: the prayer for peace, the prayer for the country, certain psalms, and poetry readings.

Certain rituals are reserved for people who identify as Jewish. These rituals are: reciting the blessing over the Torah, reading the Torah, and leading prayers in Hebrew or prayers that are English translations of traditional Jewish prayers. Interfaith partners are welcome to join their Jewish partner on the bimah for the recitation of these prayers.

What is the Temple’s policy regarding gay couples and LBGTBQ members?

There’s no need for a policy.  All people are welcome at Temple Beth Israel.  Period.

I’m not very religious.  Can you describe the religious services?

Whether you’re not very religious or come from a more traditional background, you’ll find our services to be comfortable and meaningful.  Prayers are in both Hebrew and English. Women participate fully and equally. Everyone is encouraged to participate in all aspects of our services, while ensuring that everything is accessible to all, new and old, whatever their own Jewish background, with transliterations of important prayers and blessings. Rabbi Stephen Sniderman officiates at all services, supported by our highly admired choir on Friday nights.

When are services held?

Friday evening Shabbat services are held year-round, at 7:30 pm during the season and at 5:30 pm in June through August.  Saturday morning Shabbat services are conducted year-round at 10:00 am, with the exception that there are no Saturday services in July.

Can I attend services without being a member?

Absolutely.  We know that joining a temple is an important decision, so we encourage you to visit a Shabbat service and a Temple event to see if TBI is right for you. It’s a great way to get to appreciate our service, know our community, and to make some new friends.  You will find our community friendly and welcoming.

Our special events and holiday programs usually have non-member ticket prices, and we are more than happy to have you join us. If you like our services and events, we encourage you to make it official and become a member.  For those who may have a financial hardship, we never let that be a barrier to membership, and we would urge you to have a confidential discussion with our Financial Secretary. 

I’m a part-time resident.  Does that matter?

Not a bit.  Sarasota is filled with part-timers!  To accommodate you, we offer a Seasonal Membership.  We should add that we know that new residents to the area, particularly new part-time residents, sometimes find it a bit difficult to meet people and make new friends. There’s no better way to solve that challenge than joining Temple Beth Israel!

To encourage you to try us out, we also have a special reduced membership for your first seasonal or year membership.

 What are the benefits of membership?

There are a host of benefits as a TBI member, including:

    • Access to Rabbi Sniderman for life cycle events, pastoral needs and counseling

    • Opportunity to build community through programs, events, volunteer efforts

    • Introductory Membership Rates

    • Free High Holy Day tickets

    • Complimentary membership in The Education Center at Temple Beth Israel

    • Monthly Shabbat dinners

    • Classes, lectures, special events

    • Torah and Talmud Classes

    • Complimentary first year membership in the Men's Club and Beth Israel Women (BIW)

    • Use of the facility for family events

    • Reduced cost for burial sites and columbarium niches at the Temple Cemetery

When joining a new temple, it’s common to be a little uneasy about how things are done. Let’s put your mind at ease!

Dress:  At TBI, many members dress casually in the day (this is Florida, after all!)  During services, as well as special events, members often wear slightly more dressy attire. The choice is entirely yours.

Decorum during services: It will come as no surprise that we ask that cell phones not be used in the sanctuary.  If you must be available for calls or messages, please be sure you’ve silenced your phone and step outside to take calls.

Participation in Rituals: At some point during the year, you may be invited to participate in a ritual.  Some rituals, such as an Aliyah (reciting blessings over the Torah), opening and closing the ark, or lighting Shabbat candles, are easy for anyone to do. Of course, if you’re not comfortable performing a ritual, don’t be shy; say no thanks, and we won’t give it another thought. But if you want to give it a try, our Rabbi and other leaders will help you every step of the way.   

Animals: While we love animals, we request service animals only please. 

 Are children welcome at all services?

Yes!  While we are a demographically older community, children and grandchildren are welcome at all services. Young children are not expected to sit still the whole time, so if your child needs a break from services, we have a comfortable Social Hall space outside the Sanctuary with a couch, as well as outdoor resting areas.  We welcome children at TBI because we know how important it is to grow up feeling accepted in a synagogue space. 

I’m not Jewish, but I may be interested in conversion.  What should I do? 

You are most welcome at TBI!  You should attend some services and other events at TBI and get comfortable with the ritual and the community. When you feel ready, talk to the Rabbi and he can discuss any questions you have about conversion. You will have support from the community throughout the process!

I’m not Jewish, and I’m not interested in conversion.  Am I still welcome?

Yes!  Judaism is a non-proselytizing religion, and you are welcome to participate in all services and events at TBI. However, as described earlier, certain rituals are reserved for people who identify as Jewish.  Nonetheless, if your partner is Jewish and has a ritual to perform on the bimah, you are more than welcome to join them. If you are offered a ritual by someone in the congregation and you do not self-identify as Jewish, it is customary to politely decline.  That said, we absolutely want you to join in our celebrations.

Besides religious services and special events, what else can I expect as a TBI member?

Our members are a community, and as such we feel a special obligation to contribute to the social and intellectual fabric of that community, both within the walls of the Temple and without.

Many of our Temple members participate in preparing weekly Oneg Shabbats, monthly Shabbat dinners and other events.  Others join various men’s or women’s clubs, or join committees suited to their interests and skills. Still others participate in our community outreach programs and food drives, and many take courses at our unique secular Learning Center at TBI.  If any of these ideas speak to you, let’s hear from you!

 So, how do I become a member?

Glad you asked!  If you’re ready to join, click HERE for a membership application. 

Fri, February 3 2023 12 Shevat 5783