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Photograph of Sanctuary at dusk from the garden - Copyright 2010 Jim Dow  
Title - Welcome to Congregation Bet Ha'am Title - Calendar

Congregation Bet Ha’am, located in South Portland, Maine is the spiritual home for an active and growing community of Reform Jews.

With more than 350 member households, over 150 Religious School students from pre-school to high school, weekly Shabbat worship and Torah study, and dozens of other opportunities each month for learning about and participating in Jewish life, Bet Ha’am plays a large role in the Jewish community of Southern Maine.

Since its founding in 1985 by a small group of individuals looking for a Reform alternative to the existing Portland synagogues, Congregation Bet Ha’am has steadily grown and flourished. We have always been known for the unique spirit and warmth that mark our activities, particularly our worship. Now with more than 350 member households, the Congregation has become a central institution in the Southern Maine Jewish community. 

Our Hebrew name, “Bet Ha’am,” means “House of the People,” and we are particularly proud that we are a welcoming community for a diverse group of families and individuals.  From the beginning, Bet Ha’am’s emphasis has been to help its members connect – or re-connect – to Judaism by providing an open, caring and energetic community.

Title - News & Events     Title - Education Program

Gerda Weissmann Klein

Mrs. Klein’s presentation on Thursday evening May 15, at 6:30 PM will include a viewing of One Survivor Remembers (39 minutes), Discussion and Questions from the audience.    

This event is open to everyone, and a reception open to all will be held immediately afterwards - more details below


Congregation Bet Ha'am offers a variety of adult education courses. Some, including Introduction to Judaism and the Hebrew language. We also offer programs for infants, toddlers and children through age five, as well as religious school on Sundays for Kindergarten to Grade 10. At home, they apply this knowledge to their unique realities. When school and home combine successfully, children see themselves as part of the greater fabric of the Jewish people and the Jewish tradition.

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Gerda Weissmann Klein is a Holocaust survivor whose 1957 autobiography, All But My Life, is the basis of the award-winning film One Survivor RemembersThe film won the 1995 Academy Award for Best Short Documentary, and was also awarded an Emmy. In December 2012, One Survivor Remembers was selected by The Library of Congress for inclusion in the National Film Registry, which has about 600 films (from 1897–1999) selected for their “important cultural, artistic and historic achievements.”

For more than 50 years, Gerda was been a prolific writer and speaker, having spoken to audiences in all 50 states and around the world.  On February 15, 2011, President Barack Obama presented Gerda and 14 other recipients with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian award.  At the ceremony in the White House, President Obama announced, “This year’s Medal of Freedom recipients reveal the best of who we are and who we aspire to be.”  In describing Gerda during the ceremony, President Obama noted that ever since the Holocaust – “as an author, a historian and a crusader for tolerance – she has taught the world that it is often in our most hopeless moments that we discover the extent of our strength and the depth of our love.”  Mrs. Klein remarks included, “I pray you never stand at any crossroads in your own lives, but if you do, if the darkness seems so total, if you think there is no way out, remember, never ever give up.”

In 2006, Mrs. Klein presented the keynote address at the United Nations’ First International Holocaust Remembrance Day Observance. She has received numerous recognitions, honorary degrees and awards, including being one of five women selected in 1996 to receive the International Lion of Judah Award in Jerusalem.  In 1997, Gerda was appointed by President Clinton to the Governing Council of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which features both Kurt Klein’s and her testimonies in its permanent exhibit.  In 2008, Gerda co-founded the nonprofit organization “Citizenship Counts,” whose mission is to educate students about the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, to inspire students’ pride in America and to encourage students to participate in local and national community service.  Citizenship Counts empowers young people to be responsible, participatory and socially-just citizens who appreciate the benefits of living in a diverse, inclusive and democratic country.

One Survivor Remembers tells of Gerda’s experiences as a 15 year old in Poland when the Nazi’s invaded, and presents some of her experiences in the years she worked in Nazi slave labor camps.  The film presents Gerda liberation on May 7, 1945.  It was the day before Gerda’s 21st birthday.  She was one of 120 girls who were still alive after a 3½ month long winter death march that had covered more than 350 miles.  Gerda was wearing only rags, and had not bathed in three years.  Her hair had turned white and she weighed just 68 pounds.  The morning of her liberation is recounted 40 years later by Gerda and the young American Officer who found her and the other girls.  Gerda describes how, when they met, she timidly explained to the American Officer, “We are Jewish, you know.”  He didn’t answer for quite a while.  Gerda relates how his voice betrayed his emotions when he finally replied, “So am I.”  Interviewed 40 years later, the American Officer who met Gerda that morning describes in amazement how, with her hand, Gerda made a sweeping gesture “over this scene of devastation” of the dying girls lying in the room as she showed him the other girls, “‘Noble be man, merciful, and good’,” quoting Goethe’s poem “The Divine.”
High Holy Day Information
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81 Westbrook Street, South Portland, ME 04106
Phone: 207.879.0028 | Fax: 207.879.1866

Mon: Office Closed | Tues - Fri: 9:00 am - 4:00 pm
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© 2011 Congregation Bet Ha'am