B’ruchim HaBayim ~ Welcome!

Founded over 60 years ago, Temple Beth El serves the Jewish community of Humboldt County and provides a Jewish perspective in interfaith endeavors. We are proudly affiliated with the Union for Reform Judaism. Our members come from many different religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. We welcome Jewish and interfaith families and individuals, including those who are new to Jewish study and practice. We are a Welcoming Synagogue, dedicated to inclusion of all gender identities and orientations. 

Our programs are designed to meet the diverse spiritual, intellectual, and social needs of our approximately 130 member households. We gather to celebrate holidays, learn about our heritage, and support one another in times of joy and sorrow. Our rituals include prayer and song in Hebrew and English, Torah services and study, dancing and meditation led by our longtime spiritual leader, Rabbi Naomi Steinberg, our Temple Beth El Choir, and our dedicated Tefilah Leaders, including Rabbi Bob Rottenberg.  We offer a wide range of cultural events and educational classes with an emphasis on deepening our connection to tradition, understanding Jewish history, and exploring the complexity and depth of relationships between North American Jewry and Jews around the world.

We work together on local, statewide, national and international social and environmental issues, including climate, human rights, reproductive justice, and gun violence prevention. We seek out opportunities to support our local Native American, Black, Muslim and immigrant communities.

We both honor traditions and embrace innovation. We warmly welcome visitors to our events and our website!

Rabbi Naomi’s Shavuot Message - 2022

In troubled times we can turn to Jewish traditions for insight and inspiration. I want to share some thoughts in advance of this lovely holiday, drawing on teachings by three contemporary chochamot, wise women reading Ruth from a feminist perspective.

On Shavuot we read verses from Shemot, the Book of Exodus, describing Matan Torah, the Giving of Torah. It’s an epic scene with big special effects: The entire Israelite population is gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai which is covered by a thick cloud. All the people witness the thunder and lighting, and the sound of a Shofar (ram’s horn) that makes the mountain tremble! In this attention-grabbing setting, Moses climbs up the mountain and receives the stone tablets inscribed with the Aseret HaDibrot, the Ten Sayings. The whole tale has an over-the-top (of the mountain) feel! The ethical and ritual rules of the Ten Sayings are delivered in the most dramatic and memorable circumstances. The scene has been etched into the Jewish imagination for nearly 3,000 years! 

But alongside this fiery tale, on Shavuot we also read a tender, domestic story: the Book of Ruth, an elegantly- crafted short novella revolving around the figures of Naomi from Bethlehem in Judah and her daughter-in-law Ruth, a native of neighboring Moab. How splendid to have a Biblical tale of such antiquity that centers on female characters!

In contrast to Mount Sinai’s issues of cosmic power and national identity, the theme of Ruth is love, especially as expressed in the Hebrew noun hesed, often translated as lovingkindness, the love-in-action. Just as we ask questions about the meaning of the texts, so did the rabbis long ago. Ruth Rabbah is a collection of Rabbinic midrashim (legends) that were composed sometime between the years 700 and 950 C.E. Rabbi Ze’eira points out that Migilat Ruth (the megillah/scroll of Ruth,) contains no discussions of purity or impurity, prohibitions or allowances. And so, he asks, “Why was it written?” And he answers: “To teach you how good is the reward for deeds of lovingkindness.” (Ruth Rabbah 2:14):

וְלָמָּה נִכְתְּבָה לְלַמֶּדְךָ כַּמָּה שָׂכָר טוֹב לְגוֹמְלֵי חֲסָדִים. 


If You Care, Get Vaccinated

Dear Temple Beth El Members and Friends,

As our County grapples with a soaring rate of Covid infections, it's important for each of us to use our influence to encourage family, friends, neighbors and co-workers to get vaccinated. Please feel free to circulate this editorial I wrote with Father Daniel London:

"If You Care, Get Vaccinated."


B'shalom - In peace, Rabbi Naomi