Temple Beth Shalom serves the Jewish Community of Polk County, Florida

Temple Beth Shalom was founded in 1982 by a small group of Jewish families who recognized the need for a Reform Jewish identity in Polk County, Florida.

Located in central Florida along the I-4 Corridor, Polk is sometimes considered a part of the Tampa Bay Area; however, some of its eastern communities have closer ties to the Greater Orlando metropolitan area. Though the majority of our members are from the two largest cities, Lakeland and Winter Haven, we also have members from Haines City, Auburndale, Bartow, and Lake Wales.

Beth Shalom is a welcoming congregation. Our greatest benefit might be our size: we are large enough to satisfy the needs of our members yet small enough to provide a relaxed setting with genuine warmth and friendliness. In a region where Jewish people comprise a very small minority, Beth Shalom is our extended family. Interfaith families are welcome.

Temple Beth Shalom associated immediately with the Union for Reform Judaism. During our early years, we gathered in facilities leased from schools, churches, and community organizations. Our first Religious School – fifteen children and six teachers – was held in a chandelier showroom. In our first year, we celebrated three Bar Mitzvahs and a confirmation.

In the early 90’s, we purchased land on Bradbury Road midway between Winter Haven and Lakeland. On April 26, 2003, 21 years after our first meeting, we dedicated our own building. In addition to a newly remodeled sanctuary, our facility includes a social hall, two classrooms, a kitchen, a library with a collection of children’s books as well as contemporary fiction and non-fiction for adults, and an office which also serves as the rabbi’s study. The building is located on a lovely, landscaped lot that is large enough for future expansion.

In the late 90’s, even before we had our own building, Temple Beth Shalom purchased a section of the Rolling Hills Burial Park of Winter Haven. This area is marked by two stone pillars donated by Beth Shalom families. You will find a separate publication on funerals, burial and bereavement on this website.

Temple Membership

Temple membership is open to all who express interest in the Jewish faith. Dues are payable within 90 days of the beginning of the new fiscal year. If members cannot meet this criteria, please see the President and/or the treasurer. Membership rights are never denied or restricted based on financial circumstances. Contributions to the building fund and other special funds are voluntary.

Single membership is $500.00 and a family is $900.00.

Please download information about our Temple
Temple Beth Shalom Brochure (PDF)
Temple Cemetery Brochure (PDF)

Please download a copy of our Membership Application
Temple Beth Shalom Application.PDF

Religious Services, Holidays and ceremonies from annual cycles to life cycles

Our religious services are designed to meet the needs of a diverse congregation. Men and women participate equally in all temple activities. The mixture of Hebrew and English in our services varies, though the English content is always sufficient to make the service meaningful for everyone. Yarmulkes and talises are available and their use is optional. Our Congregation likes to sing; we are led by a small choir, the Shabbatonz.

Rabbi Herzfeld

Rabbi Garson Herzfeld joined our congregation in 2012. He leads Friday evening services, Torah study, student confirmation classes, Bar and Bat Mitzvah lessons and other special activities twice a month. Rabbi Herzfeld conducts High Holiday services. He is also available for conversion classes, private consultations and life cycle events.

Rabbi Herzfeld has enjoyed an eclectic rabbinic career. He has served congregations in Dollard des Ormeaux, Quebec; Geneva, New York; Brockton, Massachusetts; Winchester, Virginia; and Brooklyn, New York. He was the Hillel Foundation Director at University of South Florida in Tampa and Jewish Chaplain at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Colgate University, and most recently, Grinnell College. He has also held positions in the Jewish communal field (Federation and Jewish Community Center). He has been active in numerous organizations, both civic and Jewish, and has served on CCAR committees. In 2008, he was named a “Senior Rabbinic Fellow” at the Shalom Hartman Institute, Jerusalem where he often studies in July.

Rabbi Herzfeld follows a series of ordained rabbis and student rabbis who have served our congregation well over the years. We have fond memories of our student rabbis who captured our attention with creative discussions and celebrations and who have on to very successful careers. We remember affectionately ordained rabbis who have brought years of experience in congregational leadership, chaplaincy, and education to our community. Both Rabbi Cyrus and Rabbi Frank Sundheim, deceased, were honored by our congregation with the title Rabbi Emeritus.

Our Torahs

Temple Beth Shalom was privileged to acquire a rescued Czech Holocaust Torah from Caslav-Golcuv- Jenikov. The Torah is on permanent loan from the Westminster Synagogue in London. After an additional 25 years of use, it became very fragile, and in 2011, we dedicated a new Torah for daily use. Both Torahs occupy a place of honor in our ark.

High Holiday Services

High Holiday services are open to the community and copies of Gates of Repentance prayer books are provided for everyone. A reception follows the Rosh Hashanah evening service, and a break-the-fast follows the Yom Kippur Neilah and Havdalah service. A special service for children is held Yom Kippur afternoon at the same time as the Yizkor service. Reservations are required and contributions made by non- members may be applied toward membership.

Other Religious Holidays

Sukkot, Simchat Torah, Chanukah, Purim, and Shavuot—are typically celebrated with family services at the Friday evening Shabbat service which falls closest to the holiday. A community seder is held on the second night of Passover. As participation in life-cycle events is an important part of Jewish family life, Beth Shalom provides for all observances including baby naming, Bar and Bat Mitzvah, marriage, funerals, and minyans for shivah.

Religious School

Religious School meets Sunday morning during the academic year. Classes are for children in kindergarten through confirmation. In addition to classroom instruction, the school sponsors a Passover Model Seder, a special Shabbat service with student participation, and a year-end family social. Please see “Religious School.”

Volunteer teachers provide religious education to our children. We use text books published by the URJ and Behrman House, materials found on the internet, and the imagination of our parents and teachers to provide a Jewish atmosphere in a community with a very small Jewish population. One of the best things about our school is the fun and friendship experienced by our young people every Sunday morning. Please see “Religious School” on this website.

Temple Beth Shalom Cemetery Information

Temple Beth Shalom Cemetery Information

All through the ages, Jewish communities, large and small, have provided for one another. We celebrate together: the joys of birth, B’nai Mitzvot and weddings. Inevitably we mourn together the death of loved ones. As a community we share in life’s events. Beth Shalom has now fulfilled a sacred trust by providing a Jewish cemetery to serve the Beth Shalom family.

The advantages are clear

Death is often an unexpected tragedy. At such times, thoughtful, considered decisions are difficult to make. We often act in ways we later regret. Preparation now will help ease the anxiety, expense and upheaval of an untimely death.

For the first time, we have a true Jewish cemetery in the spirit of our congregation. Beth Shalom has made arrangements with the City of Winter Haven to purchase a parcel of land at the Rolling Hills site to be designated as the Beth Shalom Cemetery. The designated area will be overseen by our trustees in matters of Jewish law and tradition and physically maintained in perpetuity by the City of Winter Haven.

While plots will be available to Jewish non-members, members will benefit from:
• Significant savings for members.
• Perpetual yartzheit and yiskor records maintained by Beth Shalom.

Temple Cemetery Brochure (PDF)

And there’s more…

Social, holiday, and educational programs include restaurant outings, mahjong afternoons, covered dish dinners, movie nights, family picnics, theater parties, a book club, a Brotherhood, and adult education. We also sponsor a Chanukah party and Purim Carnival. Committee participation is part of congregational life.

Through our website and Email publication Chai Lites, we reach the greater Jewish community in Polk County. We also publish an annual membership directory. The calendar is available on our website.

We are very proud of Beth Shalom. We hope you will take advantage of the many activities our congregation offers and experience the joy and camaraderie of being part of a Jewish identity in Polk County. We invite members of the community to visit our temple and get acquainted.

Temple membership is open to Jewish families and individuals who uphold the principles of Reform Judaism. Membership rights are never denied or restricted based on financial circumstances.

If you have any questions or comments, please call us at 863-292-0722, or E-Mail us at: web@templebethshalompolk.org.