Sign In Forgot Password

History

History
The Beginnings    
The Beit Knesset is situated in the heart of Rechavia. This wonderfully green suburb was born because the Greek Church who owned large tracts of land in Jerusalem found themselves in financial difficulties following the Russian Revolution in 1917. This was because the Russian Government had been  guarantors to the banks for the Greek Church land purchases and on the collapse of the Russian  Government the banks wanted their money back. This resulted in a land sale which subsequently created the areas of Talbieh and Rechavia in the early 1920’s.

Early Years    
Hachsharat Hayishuv (הכשרת הישוב) bought a portion of the land that had become available, which included land in Ginzeria (later known as Rehavia.) In 1922, this land was parceled into lots by Richard Kaufman (an architect) and sold to individuals. By 1924 the first building was built by Eliezer Yellin on the corner of Ramban and Alcharizi streets.

It is believed that the name “Rehavia” was given by Eliezer Yellin, consulting with his father, David Yellin, quoting from Chron I  17:23  דברי הימים א –י’ז – כ’ג : “And the son of Eliezer was Rehavia, the chief, and Eliezer had no other sons, but the sons of Rehavia were many.” (Eliezer Yellin had no sons.)

Many of the original newcomers were intellectuals and professionals, mostly not religious. Those who desired prayer services were forced to arrange them in private homes.

First Synagogue    
It was not until 1932 that the first synagogue was established in Rehavia in a small one-story structure that also served as a kindergarten at 24 Ussishkin Street on Lot #144 that was allocated to both the Beit Knesset and the home of the Chief Rabbi. Being the first synagogue in Rehavia it was named Beit Knesset Rehavia.  The prime movers were Mr. Aaron Chayot and Rabbi Professor Simcha Assaf.

The immigration of the Fifth Aliyah, primarily from Germany in the mid-1930’s, many of whom settled in the area,  required enlargement of the existing synagogue structure. This was accomplished with the help of architect, Eliezer Yellin.

First Congregants    
The Mitpalelim (congregants) consisted of many of the Jewish Agency leaders at the time. Menachem Ussishkin – Chairman of the Jewish National Fund; Arthur Rupin – known as the father of Zionist Settlements and Jewish Sociology; Dr. Yitzchak Nebenzahl who was later appointed Comptroller of the State of Israel; the Ben Zvi family of whom Mr. Shimshi was the President’s father and Mr. Jonah Lishansky the Presidents father-in-law, the father of Yonait Ben Zvi.  In 1952, upon the election of Yitzhak Ben Zvi – as the second President of Israel – he was given maftir on the first Shabbat, in our Beit Knesset, in the presence of Chief Rabbi Herzog, Shai Agnon and many other dignitaries. Upon the President’s death in 1963, the congregation decided, with the family’s permission to add the name Hanassi Rehavia to the shul.

Among other congregants was Rabbi Assaf, later to become a Justice in the Supreme Court, Rabbi Zev Gold, Dr. Hugo Bergman, Zalman Shoken, the Meridor family and many others. Chief Rabbi Herzog and his father-in-law, Dayan Hillman, often attended services. Zalman Shazar, the third President of Israel also attended our Beit HaKnesset as did the sixth President, Chaim Herzog. Frequent overseas guests included Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, Professor Saul Lieberman and Rabbi Meir Bar- Ilan.

Rabbi’s & Teachers    
Rabbi Abba Rokowsky was the unofficial part-time mora de Atra in the early years. He was followed by Rabbi Zacks and Rabbi Charlap who also gave classes. Mr Chaim Rakover, a businessman, gave a daily Daf Yomi shiur from 1940 to 1965. Rabbi Eliezer Rokowsky became the mora de Atra until he passed away in 1995 (but never attended on Shabbat!) Dr. Pinchas Rosengarten and Mr. Rivlin then ran the Beit Knesset  from the 1960’s until 1992. Dr Rosengarten was the principal of Evelina Rothschild High School.

Rabbi Bulka began teaching classes in 1994 with English and Yiddish classes in Talmud. Mr. Y. Goldschmidt, until recently, gave classes on Shabbat and since 1992 to the present day, Rabbi Walfish gives regular classes on Shabbat. Rabbi Wein started giving classes during the summer months of the early 1990’s and since his retirement from his shul in Monsey, NY, in 1996, he gives regular shiurim and lectures at Beit Knesset Hanassi. In 2003, he was invited to become the mora de Atra of Beit Knesset Hanassi and happily accepted.

Rebuilding    
The original one-story building could not accommodate the increased population of the area in the 1960’s and the original structure, after 30 years, was already in disrepair. With great effort by some of the members, such as the Viglialik Foundation, the necessary funds were raised. (Mr Viglialik was a regular  congregant in the Beit Knesset and owned the building on the corner of KKL and Ussishkin and as he had no children, his foundation, thanks to Mr Ende, donated a large sum of money towards the construction)

Mr Klapfish- a wealthy American, walked into shul one day when it was very crowded. He was given a seat upfront and he was so impressed with the community that he then attended regularly and also donated a large sum to the new construction.

Other contributors were the Interior Minister, Chaim Moshe Shapira, and the son of Chief Rabbi Herzog and so, sufficient funds were raised. The architect of the project, Alexander Friedman, designed the new structure and he also designed Heichel Shlomo and the Great Synagogue. Yitzhak Goldschmidt was responsible for the construction supervision and the new structure was completed in 1972 in time for the High Holyday Services.

The new structure, a 3½-story building was built over the original single storey building where services continued during the entire period of construction until the new Beit Knesset was ready for use. The Beit Knesset accommodates a total of 340 seats for men and women in the main sanctuary.

A vitrage was provided by the artist, David Hillman who was Chief Rabbi Herzog’s brother-in-law. It is located above the Aron Hakodesh in the main sanctuary and was commissioned  by Chaim Herzog who became Israel’s sixth President in 1983. The wooden menorah, on the Reader’s Shtender in the Main Shul was carved by the artist and sculptress, Batya Lishansky, in memory of her father, Mr Jonah Lishansky (President Ben Zvi’s father-in-law). Six months after the completion of the new structure, the Chanan family provided a large sum of money to construct the ground floor Beit Hamidrash in the area that had been the original single storey Beit HaKnesset. The Beit Hamidrash is used daily for all three services and in its first years also served as a Kollel under the leadership of Rabbi Herzog and Dayan Hillman. On Shabbat it also houses a Hashkama minyan followed by a Young People’s minyan. The Beit Hamidrash also serves as a catering hall, accommodating over 100 people at a sit-down affair and there is a kitchen to facilitate the catering.

Area change of constituent members    
In the early 1990’s, the situation in Rehavia was in a state of flux. The original population had aged and the younger generation left the neighborhood. The replacements were Anglo-Saxons who had been making Aliya in large numbers and had settled in the area. One of their leaders was Ruby Davidman, z’l. who joined the Beit Knesset in 1991.

Events and Type of Service    
Eventually, within a year, both the old-timers and the newcomers had achieved total integration. Many of the new members who joined came from the USA and were members of Young Israel Synagogues. So, in 1997, the third name was added to the Beit HaKnesset – Yisrael Hazair. The nusach of the Beit HaKnesset is strictly maintained to this day, nusach Hagra modified Ashkenaz. The Beit HaKnesset became a closely-knit congregation with social events, such as party on Purim, services and celebration on Yom Ha’atzma’ut and Yom Yerushalayim and monthly kiddushim on Mevarchim HaChodesh also, lectures and other events. There is also an annual 4-day communal outing which has visited many parts of the country to which over 100 members participate annually. In addition, there is also an annual Yom Hashoa, Yom Hazicharon and Yom Ha’atzma’ut Program.

The Beit Knesset has the good fortune to have Rabbi Wein as its Mora de Atra. He attracts many visitors on Shabbat  and Chagim as well as giving many classes and a variety of lectures. The result is that today the Beit Knesset has 450 members and is ready to welcome anyone wishing to join and they will find a warm and caring community. On this last point alone, there is an annual campaign for Ma’ot Chitim (collection of funds for distribution to the Needy before Pesach) where the generosity of the membership has been able to help over 200 Jerusalem families, with a modest contribution to their Passover needs.

Charitable Status    
Since 1982 the Beit Knesset has been an Amutah (Charitable Organization) and charitable contributions are tax-deductible under Section 46 of the Israeli Tax Code.

Wed, 22 November 2017 4 Kislev 5778