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‘A spiritual home’: B’nai Chaim celebrates 25 years in South Jeffco

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By Deborah Swearingen

For the past 25 years, B’nai Chaim has worked its way into the hearts of the Jewish community in South Jeffco and beyond.

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The reform synagogue, led by Rabbi Kim Harris, is nestled in a neighborhood near Kendallvue Elementary School in Morrison. It offers a religious school, preschool, book club, Torah study groups, Shabbat services and more. Some 75 families from across the metro-area flock to the temple for worship. Some are in search of a place to grow their Jewish faith; others want a solid religious school for their children; and still more need a welcoming spiritual home.

As the synagogue celebrates its 25th birthday, temple members, some founding and some new, feel a great sense of gratitude.

“Twenty-five years later, with all its ups and downs, we’re still here,” said Sandy Solove of Lowry. “That means we have people who have grown from little kids (to) adults in the community. It’s pretty cool.”

History

An advertisement posted in the Courier more than two decades ago invited Jewish people to meet at the Fun Plex, which later became Fun City and now is the West Littleton Neighborhood Health Center.

At least 50 people showed up, eager to create a spiritual home in South Jeffco. Soon, the new congregation had a name – B’nai Chaim or Children of Life in Hebrew.

With a rabbi, a Torah and a fast-growing religious school, the synagogue quickly gained legitimacy. Located near the intersection of C-470 and U.S. 285, the temple continues to be convenient, but for many, like founding member Eric Sapir of Littleton, the religious school is a huge draw. He wanted a spot for his children to make their Bar and Bat Mitzvah, the coming of age for young Jewish children in which they perform the Jewish mitzvot or commandments.

“That was a real important feature of the early congregation that got people coming in, to bring their kids in,” he said.

After meeting in local churches, including Abiding Hope Lutheran Church and Genesis Presbyterian Church, for years, B’nai Chaim purchased its Morrison temple in 2005.

Through various rabbi changes and the building purchase, B’nai Chaim soldiered on.

The synagogue welcomed Rabbi Harris, a native South Carolinian, in 2013 during Jewish High Holy Days. As a cantor, she led the congregation in worship through music. Though her visit was temporary, Harris soon returned full time after the synagogue’s rabbi retired in 2014. Even before Harris was ordained as rabbi last December, she has been committed to growing the congregation. Since her arrival, attendance has grown by about 20 percent.

A haven for all

Rabbi Harris prides herself on leading a temple that is inclusive. Unlike some orthodox synagogues, B’nai Chaim welcomes interfaith families.

For Harris, this is an important part of the temple’s identity.

“I feel like if we don’t accept them, the church down the road will accept them. I feel like we need to be welcoming and inclusive,” she said. “ … Even if they haven’t converted, they’re part of our Jewish journey.”

And most B’nai Chaim congregants can agree that their small, inclusive synagogue is a home.

“It’s a wonderful feeling to know that there’s a place where people who are Jewish can go,” Solove said. “There’s a lot of learning, camaraderie, community amongst the members. It’s not like the big temples where there are thousands of members. (At B’nai Chaim), you know everybody that walks through the door.”

Founding member Lenore Rosenblum of Lakewood agreed with Solove. Both have served as the congregation’s president.

“It’s my spiritual home,” Rosenblum said. “I feel tied to it somehow.”

Sapir felt much the same.

“Everybody wants their spiritual community that they are comfortable with, that they identify with,” he said.