For over sixty years, Congregation Beth Shalom of Napa Valley (known as CBS) has been the center of Jewish life in the Napa Valley. In 2014, we continue to provide a rich religious, educational, cultural and social experience for the increasing number of Jews who have settled here resulting in over 170 families representing approximately 280 adults and many teenagers and children. Our community is growing with membership coming from all ages and backgrounds. Our Religious School is continuing to expand. CBS offers a variety of educational, religious, social and cultural programs.
In 2012 Rabbi Lee Bycel began his tenure with us. He brings a passionate love of Judaism and community. His dynamic energy combined with his menschlekeit and compassion has provided our community with leadership and a rabbi who is really here for us during our moments of joy and sadness. We are very proud of his involvement in the general community including his teaching at the University of San Francisco and his recent appointment to the United States Holocaust Museum Memorial Council.
CBS recently (October 2014) moved into its beautiful new synagogue. The new building was designed for multi-purpose use, providing natural light at every angle and features the glass art work of renowned artist, Gordon Huether. The synagogue has a unique architecture which is inviting to a wide array of activities. One enters under beautiful 100 year old wooden trusses that were hidden in the ceiling in the original CBS synagogue. A beautiful sanctuary which is most inspiring for worship and community gatherings highlights the entire structure. A large social hall with a reception area, library, classrooms and other meeting areas offer space for various sized events and meetings. The building reflects the values of the CBS community which embrace history and modernity, tradition and creativity, openness, diversity and inclusiveness. It is a building that will be a home to the Napa Jewish community for decades to come.
CBS had its beginnings during World War II as “The Napa Jewish Group”, meeting in members’ homes. We organized as Congregation Beth Sholom in 1953. The synagogue purchased the old Chamber of Commerce Building, which was moved through the streets of Napa to its present site at 1455 Elm Street, near Old Town Napa. In 1963 a newly remodeled synagogue was dedicated on the present site and a small swimming pool was constructed in the early 1970s in order to serve as the Jewish Community Center of Napa. The congregation was an independent synagogue for the first 50 years of its existence with part-time rabbis and lay leaders as religious staff. Volunteers served admirably for the religious school and committees during that time. We were and still are the only synagogue in Napa County. CBS is now affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism.
Congregation Beth Shalom is involved in a variety of Social Justice and Community programs. We are founding member of “The Table” (over 20 years), a non-sectarian program that helps feed Napa’s hungry. We are currently participating in the interfaith project “Road to Citizenship” where volunteers are helping permanent residents with Green Cards in Napa to become United States citizens. We have an active Bikkur Cholim group known as “CBS Lotsa Helping Hands”.
As a Reform congregation we have offered a wide array of worship that appeals to those of different ages and Jewish backgrounds – Weekly Shabbat Services, Shorashim (families with toddlers) and Family Shabbat – all which are infused with beautiful music of Gordon Lustig, our Director of Music. In addition to Rabbi Bycel leading Friday night services, CBS has a long tradition of lay led Shabbat Services – generally once or twice a month. Shabbat morning is highlighted with our lively Torah study which engages a wide range of members.
A history of the Napa Valley’s Jews from 1848 to the present is documented in Lin Weber’s book: Under the Vine and the Fig Tree: The Jews of the Napa Valley available through Amazon.com. An exhibit of the Jews of the Valley is part of the Land and Its People at the Napa Valley Museum in Yountville. A pictorial book Napa Valley’s Jewish Heritage by Henry Michalski and Donna Mendelsohn was published in June 2012 by Arcadia Publishing and is available nationally and locally.