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Congregation Beth Ahabah - National Fund For Sacred Places
2017 Cohort

Congregation Beth Ahabah

(Reform Jewish)

Richmond, Virginia

Congregation Beth Ahabah descended from the first synagogue in Richmond, Virginia, and the sixth synagogue in the United States.

Congregation Beth Ahabah courtesy Congregation Beth Ahabah Staff

Congregation Beth Ahabah courtesy Congregation Beth Ahabah Staff

2017 Cohort

Congregation Beth Ahabah

(Reform Jewish)

Richmond, Virginia

Congregation Beth Ahabah descended from the first synagogue in Richmond, Virginia, and the sixth synagogue in the United States.

Few Jews settled in Colonial Virginia prior to the enactment of the 1786 Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. In 1789, 29 Jewish men established Kahal Kadosh Beth Shalome in the Sephardic tradition. German-Jewish immigrants exposed the community to Ashkenazi traditions in the first half of the 19th century, leading a group of Jews to leave Kahal Kadosh Beth Shalome and establish Kahal Kadosh Beth Ahabah in 1841. Fifty years later, the two congregations remerged to support an ethnically and culturally diverse Jewish community. The combined congregation commissioned local architect William Churchill Noland to design a new synagogue using Classical forms that represented Jewish assimilation into the country’s architectural and cultural landscapes. The sanctuary is notable for its elaborately painted proscenium arch and stained-glass windows, including a 1923 Tiffany-designed window depicting Moses receiving the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai.

Congregation Beth Ahabah has a long history of civic leadership and interfaith partnership. The volunteer-led community support committee, Tikkun Olam (Repair the World), provides ongoing opportunities for congregants to participate in projects that benefit the less fortunate in and beyond the community. Congregants of all ages host an annual Mitzvah Day, with service projects that support community members facing food and housing insecurity. Congregation Beth Ahabah also collects goods for the Richmond Food Bank year-round, houses 35 people for three months over the winter, hosts an interfaith conference, and feeds close to 500 Richmond residents on Christmas Day.

A $250,000 National Fund grant with over $750,000 in matching funds raised by the congregation allowed Congregation Beth Ahabah to increase the energy efficiency and accessibility of the synagogue and surrounding campus. Work included replacing the HVAC system, upgrading security and lighting, installing a restroom and a ramp compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and completing repairs to the building envelope. As a result of this project, Congregation Beth Ahabah has strengthened its community partnerships and ability to share space with these partners in the future.

Congregation Beth Ahabah courtesy Congregation Beth Ahabah Staff

Saving Historic Houses of Worship: Congregation Beth Ahabah

Founded in 1841 as an offshoot of Kahal Kadosh Beth Shalome (Richmond’s first Jewish congregation established in 1789), Congregation Beth Ahabah built its first synagogue in 1848. Solidifying itself as an important community asset early on, Beth Ahabah provided school rooms, free of charge, to youth of various religious backgrounds until the Richmond public school system was established in 1871.

Congregation Beth Ahabah courtesy Congregation Beth Ahabah Staff

Stories and Media Coverage

Read more about how the National Fund for Sacred Places is helping congregations around the country rehabilitate their sacred places.

Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church by Luis P. Gutierrez