B’nai Yehuda Beth Sholom was created in 1998 by the merger of two URJ Reform Congregations: Temple B’nai Yehuda in Homewood, Illinois and Congregation Beth Sholom, the first temple in Park Forest, Illinois. Temple B’nai Yehuda was the older of these two congregations, but was originally named Hyde Park Liberal Congregation.
Hyde Park Liberal Congregation held its first Friday night service on March 31, 1944 on the second floor of Shotwell Hall, 1442 East 55th Street. Services were conducted by laymen and temporary rabbis until the installation of Rabbi Albert Wolf in 1945. During the High Holy Days in 1947, Henry Altman was asked to “help out” as cantor, thus beginning more than 55 years of service to the congregation.
Rabbi Wolf remained the spiritual leader until his death in December 1951. Shotwell Hall served as the home of the Hyde Park Liberal Congregation until December 1956. With the move of many members to the South Shore area, the congregation also moved. On January 4, 1957, services were held in new rented quarters at 1901 East 87th Street.
Hyde Park Liberal Congregation changed its named to Temple B’nai Yehuda. In September 1960, High Holy Day services were held in the new building at 8201 South Jeffrey Boulevard. In 1964, Rabbi Leo Wolkow became the spiritual leader. In 1971, the congregation moved to its present location in Homewood. Rabbi Wolkow served as spiritual leader until his retirement in 1998.
Congregation Beth Sholom grew up with Park Forest. The congregation was founded and the official birth of Beth Sholom came in April 1951 with the granting of a charter from the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC). Initially, services were held at Sauk Trail School, the basement of the American Community Builders and Trinity Lutheran Church. The congregation was served by rabbinic students from Hebrew Union College until Rabbi Joseph Herzog was installed as rabbi in 1953. Rabbi Samuel Jaffe served as rabbi from 1954 until 1958. Rabbi Minard Klein served as rabbi from 1958 until 1986. The original building was dedicated in May 1955. In the 1960’s the congregation had grown to 300 members. The stained glass windows were dedicated in 1984. In 1987, Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus became rabbi and brought a renewed vitality to congregational life.
In 1997, a committee was formed to investigate the merger of Temple B’nai Yehuda and Congregation Beth Sholom. Rabbi Dreyfus was named to succeed Rabbi Wolkow when he retired. A merger celebration was held in June 1998 beginning with carrying the torahs from Beth Sholom to B’nai Yehuda. The merged congregation was called B’nai Yehuda Beth Sholom. Artifacts were brought from Beth Sholom. The stained glass windows were installed above the ark. We not only merged the members of the congregation, but also merged the names. In May 2014 we celebrated the 70th Anniversary of our congregation.