Welcome! We are pleased that you are interested in Congregation Beth Shalom. We are a warm, diverse, and active Jewish community offering a wide variety of cultural, educational, and holiday programs. You are warmly invited to join us at our weekly Shabbat evening and morning services. We hope you will visit our synagogue, tour the facilities, and meet our members and staff. You can get information about what programs and events we offer on our website www.cbsmodesto.org.
Beth Shalom functions as a pluralistic and welcoming, independent congregation. We also maintain affiliation with UCSJ (United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism). We encourage all Jewish individuals and families to become members; this includes blended, interfaith, and traditional families.
Sometimes the question arises, How do I know whether I’m Jewish? Historically, since the Rabbinic period (about 2,000 years ago), Jewish status was passed down by the mother. This is known as matrilineal descent. This means that a son or daughter of a Jewish mother, or someone who had a traditional conversion, is Jewish, even if their father is not Jewish. Prior to this period, the Bible recognized patrilineal descent, whereby one’s Jewish status was determined by one’s father.
In 1983, the Reform Jewish Movement adopted the principal of patrilineal descent. However, in practice, Reform Judaism considers a child of an interfaith couple to be Jewish as long as one parent is Jewish, the child is raised as a Jew, receives a Jewish education, and celebrates appropriate life cycle events, such as receiving a Hebrew name and becoming bar or bat mitzvah. This also assumes that the child is being raised exclusively as a Jew, and not practicing another religion.
It is important to understand that this definition of Jewish identity was not accepted by traditional (Conservative and Orthodox) congregations in the United States, or by the vast majority of Jewish communities in other parts of the world, including Israel.
If you have any questions about your Jewish background, our Rabbi looks forward to meeting with you privately to discuss your Jewish identity, and to find ways to welcome you into our diverse congregation.