An Introduction to Temple Beth Shalom

About TBS

Santa Fe’s Temple Beth Shalom is dynamic, diverse, welcoming and inclusive. Proudly affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism, TBS is the oldest and largest Jewish congregation in one of North America’s most ancient and unique cities. We are committed to living, teaching and learning progressive Jewish values within our faith community, and to contributing on the basis of these values to the community-at-large.

Temple Beth Shalom Mission Statement

Congregation Temple Beth Shalom commits to nurture and celebrate our connection with God, to cultivate a love and understanding of the Jewish heritage, and to strengthen community through the wholehearted practice of Tikkun Olam, the repair, healing and transformation of the world.

Centuries of Judaism in “The City Different”

Santa Fe is one of North America’s most ancient cities and the oldest capital city in the United States. There is considerable evidence that Jews from Spain who were seeking to put as much distance as possible between themselves and the Inquisition were part of New Mexico’s Spanish colonial presence dating back to the turn of the 17th century. During the 19th century, many "pioneer" Jews of mainly Ashkenazic origin migrated to the West and founded communities beyond the Mississippi River, including, by 1850, in Santa Fe. In the years that followed, Santa Fe’s Jews, predominantly German like the rest of New Mexico’s Jewish population, established businesses and services and became a relatively prosperous middle-class group. They generally had a positive relationship with the region’s Catholic-majority Christian community, to the point that in the late 1860s two Jewish families on close terms with Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy contributed funds for the completion of Santa Fe’s imposing St. Francis Cathedral, which happens to have a Hebrew Tetragrammaton carved over the grand entrance.

Santa Fe’s First and Largest Jewish Worship Community

Although there was a small, steady Jewish presence in Santa Fe over the next nine decades, an influx of Jewish personnel for the Manhattan Project during World War II helped create the critical mass, as it were, for a permanent Jewish worship center in New Mexico’s capital city. In the late 1940s eighteen families purchased property on Barcelona Road, a quiet street about a mile-and-a-half from the city’s historic Plaza, They engaged the noted architect John Gaw Meem, a key figure in the development of Santa Fe’s signature “Pueblo Revival” style, to design a building that could accommodate the forty families who made up what was then called the Santa Fe Jewish Temple. The congregation dedicated its Meem-designed worship space in June 1956. Over the next two decades, as Santa Fe’s Jewish community slowly grew, the Temple moved from an initial reliance on part-time rabbis to full-time rabbinic leadership.

In 1970 the congregation adopted a new name, Temple Beth Shalom. Throughout that decade and into the next TBS’s membership expanded dramatically. In August 1982 TBS affiliated with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC), now known as the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ). In response to the Temple’s growth, a new building containing a substantially larger sanctuary as well as a social hall was designed by the renowned solar architect Ed Mazria and dedicated in September 1986. An adjacent classroom and office wing was completed in May 1987. The original building now houses the Temple's Preschool and its adult library and is used as a multi-purpose meeting space and classroom. It reverts to its original purpose during the High Holy Days, when our Youth Services are held there.

Today TBS has a membership of about 320 families, making it by far the largest Jewish congregation in Santa Fe. But we offer a place for Jewish engagement well beyond formal affiliation. The total population of the greater Santa Fe area is around seventy-five thousand, of which three to seven thousand are estimated to be Jewish. Many of these secular Jews attend classes and events at TBS and consider it to be their synagogue, despite their lack of formal membership (although of course we warmly encourage them to consider becoming members at some point). Our religious school has some 85 students. Our daily preschool for 2 to 5 year olds has an enrollment of 35 students, is accredited by the NAEYC, and enjoys a sterling reputation in the Santa Fe community. TBS is the proud steward of the “Las Vegas Torah,” the oldest in New Mexico, which resides in our Main Sanctuary in a specially designed display case. It is scrolled to the Ten Commandments—the last portion read during a service. Temple Beth Shalom is situated on a campus that includes a quiet and verdant meditation garden, and we are thus able to serve as a resource for the entire Santa Fe community.

Rabbi Marvin Schwab became our congregational rabbi on August 1, 2001, after having served as rabbi at Temple Or Rishhon in the Sacramento, California area for ten years. He retired from TBS in 2014, but continues to be a cherished member of the congregation.

Our current rabbi, Neil Amswych comes to Santa Fe following 9 years as the principal rabbi of Bournemouth Reform Synagogue in England. He studied astrophysics at St. Andrew’s University in Scotland before beginning his rabbinic education at Leo Baeck College. While spending his third year at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Philadelphia, he met his wife, Jenny, who was also a student there. They married in 2004 and have two beautiful children: a daughter, Zafra, now 4 years old, and a son, Asher, who is just one. They also have a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel called Parker making them a global family: an American Mum, a British Dad, dual-citizen children and a Welsh dog. Rabbi Jenny is now the director of our TBS Preschool.

In addition, we have a committed lay leadership that has always stepped forward when called upon. We have Temple members who know the liturgy, who can chant Torah, and who can teach. TBS has a proud tradition of boards of directors and executive officers who devotedly give their time, energy and expertise to the essential work of keeping the Temple healthy, vibrant and growing.

A Welcoming Congregation in a Diverse, Dynamic Jewish Community

Like other Reform congregations, TBS is committed to the principle of inclusion. We are committed to the absolute equality of women in all areas of Jewish life. As part of our understanding of what Judaism asks of us, we have a strong tradition of welcoming Jews (and non-Jews) of all races and backgrounds and persuasions. All those who feel a connection to Judaism, or who are interested in Jewish life and practice, are invited to come on in.

As a progressive congregation we unequivocally welcome LGBT individuals, couples and families, and we celebrate together their commitment and life-cycle ceremonies. A third or more of the Temple community belong to interfaith families, whose members are embraced as an integral part of TBS and whose children are accepted unreservedly as Jewish. The Temple also embraces those descendants of old Nuevo Mexico families who have been exploring and laying claim to their Converso and crypto-Jewish heritage.

Although Santa Fe can have an agreeably small-town feel, it’s a remarkably diverse city, and Temple Beth Shalom reflects that diversity. There are families among us who trace their ancestry back to Santa Fe’s 19th century Jewish settlers, although the majority are of rather more recent vintage—new folks pop up at Temple almost every week—and come from across the United States and indeed around the world, including New York, Boston, Chicago, Kansas City, Houston, Denver, Phoenix, Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Seattle, Israel, Tunisia and New Zealand.

Like most Jews in the US, our congregants tend to be college-educated and beyond, with a significant number of professionals including attorneys, physicians, accountants and engineers, scientists and scholars, journalists and other writers, business proprietors and entrepreneurs, and of course, artists and musicians—this is Santa Fe, after all, America’s third-largest art market, after New York and Los Angeles. From young parents to dynamic elders, our families mingle easily together at services and special events alike. As befits a community with a significant number of second homes and vacation residences, we have a number of part-time Santa Feans who attend services and find in TBS a place where they can maintain their connection to the Jewish community.

Religious Services, Santa Fe-Style

We have warm and lively Friday night services and Holy Day celebrations, enriched by great music and by lots of congregational participation. On the first Friday of each month there’s a “Tot Shabbat” potluck dinner in the Temple Social Hall followed by a family service in the adjoining Sanctuary, with a strong emphasis on children’s participation. These services also include a story by the rabbi and a blessing for those whose birthdays fall within the coming month. Saturday morning services are preceded by a very well-attended Torah study featuring a bagels and lox breakfast. The regular Shabbat morning service is well-integrated with our B'nai Mitzvah simchat, and both are deepened and improved by the association. Our Monday Morning Minyan, led by Aaron Wolf,our Music Director, and congregant Dana Densmore has a loyal following and adds a special dimension to our service choices.

As you might expect from our varied demographics, our Jewish practice is varied as well, even as it is grounded in the Reform movement’s religious traditions. In our congregation, as in many, there is a wide range of what people like—from traditional to meditative to dancing in the aisles. Santa Fe has long been a magnet for "spiritual seekers" including many Jews. This can mean different things and take various forms, depending on the seeker; but many of those who come regularly to services at TBS are searching for a connectedness with the Prophet Elijah’s “still small voice” and its intertwining of the quiet and the profound. They want to move closer to God, in fellowship with the Jewish community.

Jewish Education and Community Engagement

Like Reform Jews everywhere, the Temple Beth Shalom community knows that the future of Judaism is bound up with our children. Thus, TBS places a high priority on education. Our K-12 religious school thrives under the full-time direction of Joy Rosenberg, who supervises a cadre of enthusiastic and committed teachers in the imparting of Hebrew language instruction, Jewish history, and Jewish religious traditions, practice and values.

The Bar and Bat Mitzvah program is strong and exciting. Families consistently come away from the experience deeply moved, and with a stronger commitment to Judaism. Beth Shalom Temple Youth (BSTY), TBS’s NFTY-Southwest Region-affiliated youth group, has been a magnet for teens for over two decades under Ellen Zieselman’s warm, witty guidance. Our acclaimed Preschool, directed by Rabbi Jenny Amswych, features a Jewish curriculum and is open to all children, non-Jewish as well as Jewish.

The TBS Adult Education Department provides a dynamic series of workshops, festivals, celebrations, lectures and presentations throughout the year, including such offerings as three levels of Biblical Hebrew, a Jewish Arts Festival, Kabbalah and Torah Study, the Scholars in Residence series, and the Northern New Mexico “Yom Limmud: A Day of Jewish Learning, Arts and Culture.” Under the leadership of Education Director Joy Rosenberg, the Temple partners with local synagogues, the New Mexico Jewish Historical Society, the Santa Fe Jewish Film Festival, the Jewish Community Council of Northern New Mexico, and the Jewish Federation of New Mexico as part of the TBS effort to provide educational and cultural programming for the congregation and the local and regional community.

As a Reform Jewish congregation and an integral member of the local and regional community, Temple Beth Shalom is firmly committed to the mitzvot of gemilut chasadim, the giving of time and energy in “acts of loving-kindness,” and tzedakah, “righteous giving.” TBS takes tikkun olam, “repairing the world,” very seriously, as evidenced by our Social Justice Council, currently led by director Rebecca Baran-Rees. SJC’s efforts include legislative advocacy in support of homeless services, affordable housing, early childhood education, fair pay for women, effective enforcement of wage theft, and general assistance to families in poverty. SJC also works to provide direct services and projects to our community, including partnerships with Envision Santa Fe, SF Resource and Opportunity Center (an Interfaith Shelter) and Safe Haven, food drives to collect Thanksgiving meals for homeless families and youth, and mentoring in the Santa Fe Public Schools.

At Temple Beth Shalom, we show our strong support for the State of Israel by educating ourselves about the history and culture of our Jewish homeland, by promoting full civil, human and religious rights for the country and all its citizens, by advocating and praying for a just and lasting peace, and by working to strengthen Reform Judaism in Israel. Concerning the latter, TBS is proud to have as a Jewish “Sister Congregation” the Reform-affiliated Kehilat Yedid Nefesh in Carmiel.

Temple Beth Shalom has a strong commitment to local and regional ecumenical outreach and community via the Interfaith Leadership Alliance, of which Rabbi Schwab was a co-founder. To this end TBS maintains a warm “Sister Congregation” relationship with Christ Lutheran Church in Santa Fe.

Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome, ברוך הבא !

Temple Beth Shalom’s congregation is proud of her heritage, her progressive Jewish affiliation and principles, the broadly embracing welcome that TBS provides on the basis of those principles, her spiritual and educational programs within the Jewish community, her support of Israel, and her outreach and engagement with the local and regional community. TBS has accomplished much over the past six decades. But the congregation knows—and welcomes—that much work lies ahead in the effort to maintain and build upon the Temple’s unique, honored role as the flagship Jewish religious institution between Albuquerque and Denver. We invite all with a connection to, or an interest in, progressive Judaism to visit us, to attend our services, to utilize our programs and assets and, if the spirit moves you, to join us in our enterprise. B’shalom!

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Services & Study This Week

Friday, June 22
6:30 pm Erev Shabbat Services
Dorothea Farewell

Saturday, June 23
9:00 am Bagels, Coffee and Torah Study
10:30 am Shabbat Morning Service
Julian & Emma Rhode B'nai Mitzvah