King of Prussia Synagogue Looks Ahead to New Era

From left: TBA Head of Management Cheryl Carmel, President Jan Biros and Rabbi Chana Leslie Glazer (Photo by Jarrad Saffren)

Temple Brith Achim has not yet started a new era, but it may begin one in the next year.

In the fall and winter, synagogue leaders completed a 50th-anniversary capital campaign that raised $437,308, according to Now, with summer fast approaching, the King of Prussia congregation is searching for its next long-term rabbi.

The previous spiritual leader — Eric J. Lazar — left in 2023 after 20 years. The current leader — Chana Leslie Glazer — is an interim replacement.

A former journalist, Glazer was ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 2013. She has served synagogues in the Lehigh Valley, Memphis, Tennessee, and Roanoke, Virginia. The rabbi understands her role and wants to help.

Temple Brith Achim aims to find a new spiritual leader by July 2025.

“It’s exciting,” Glazer said. “It’s about helping the congregation pull together and decide who it wants to be.”

So, what is Temple Brith Achim?

For starters, it’s Reform. It’s one of the only synagogues in the western suburbs. Congregants come from King of Prussia, West Chester and more than 20 other area towns. Cheryl Carmel, TBA’s head of management, drives 22.9 miles to TBA from her home in Pottstown.

TBA has played this role since its founding in the 1960s. As a 2022 Jewish Exponent story reported, a few couples met under a tree in Valley Forge National Park and decided to establish a Jewish presence in the area. In September 1982, the congregation bought its property on South Gulph Road. By 2007, it had more than 300 households.

That’s when the financial crisis hit.

Brith Achim’s membership dropped to 270. Over the next decade-plus, the membership fell below 200.

But synagogue life continued. In 2022, Brith Achim added trees and vegetation to its outdoor garden. The congregation also made the entrance and building handicap accessible.

By the time of the capital campaign, 106 of 171 families were ready to contribute. That money is already being used to renovate the top floor. But it does not have a specific purpose, according to synagogue leaders. Instead, it will be used to replenish reserves and be available as needed.

“We’re going to let it sit for a while,” TBA President Jan Biros said. “We’re trying to build up a little bit of a nest egg, so we don’t have crises in the future.”

But what is that future?

Biros, Glazer and Carmel did not have a clear answer. In fact, they said their goal is to find one before July 2025.

“What we’re doing is all an attempt to get as many people involved in our decision-making process,” Biros said. “And make sure we’re involving as many opinions and demographics as we can.”

Temple Brith Achim in King of Prussia (Photo by Jarrad Saffren)

TBA leaders have put together a search committee for a new rabbi and a transition committee for the synagogue, according to Biros. Some members are on both.

They are following Union for Reform Judaism guidance on bringing people together for group discussions about big decisions. At many such events, synagogue leaders will write out questions beforehand, ask members to answer them and then host a larger discussion in the room.

“Why are you a member here? Why have you been a member here? What are you looking for in the future? What should worship look like?” Biros asked.

“Those conversations not only help us determine what people are thinking and looking for, but it also brings people together,” she added.

The synagogue wants to answer these questions before the new rabbi arrives, according to Glazer.

“We need to know who we are,” she said.

Many of TBA’s congregants are converts and many synagogue families are interfaith. Congregants have said they want TBA to continue to welcome both groups.

Carmel said that Brith Achim members want “fun events in different areas that they can do with other Jews.” The Men’s Club recently held an axe-throwing night. The synagogue also hosts game nights.

“Anything we can to get the younger crowd more engaged, so they can do things with their family or do things independently of their family,” she said.

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