Congregation B'nai Jehoshua Beth Elohim (BJBE) is the union of two congregations, B'nai Jehoshua and Beth Elohim.
B'nai Jehoshua was founded in 1893 by Bohemian and Czechoslovakian Jews. The synagogue originally was located at 20th and Ashland Avenues in Chicago. Although most temple members moved from that area in the 40's and 50's, they continued their membership, traveling long distances to attend services and religious school.
Early in the year 1963, five families got together to explore the possibility of starting a Reform Synagogue in the Des Plaines-Morton Grove-Glenview area. With many new housing developments in the area attracting young Jewish families, it seemed like the thing to do - and it evidently was. Membership, encouraged by publicity and by word of mouth, grew daily. Excitement was very much in the air. We began to hold Services, with lay leaders, at what was then the Good Shepherd Church on Ballard, and we held our first Second Seder at that location.
In the spring, the establishment of a religious school was announced, members were recruited as teachers, a book sale was held, and over a hundred children were enrolled. The first High Holiday Services were held at the Sahara Motel on Waukegan Road, and Irv Glick's masterful drapings helped disguise the original purpose of the room and make it into a lovely sanctuary. Services were led by Rabbi David Cedarbaum. That year, bi-weekly Services were conducted by either lay leaders or visiting Rabbis, and held at the Glenview Community Church. Eventually Rabbi Cedarbaum became our part-time Rabbi. The ritual objects were stored at homes, the bulletin was run off in the Waitsman's basement, the library was stored at the Schlanger's home, and classes were held at Ballard School.
The Merger Begins
The Board began to look at facilities for a permanent home in 1964, but as membership grew beyond our expectations, places were either too small or too expensive. In early 1965 the Board embarked on a search for a full time Rabbi, lists were drawn up stating the qualifications we wanted, and, at that point, we were approached by B'nai Jehoshua about the possibility of a merger - if we would take their name and their Rabbi. Upon meeting Mark Shapiro, the Search Committee discovered he met all the qualifications listed, and beyond, the merger would bring a base of more mature members, plus the possibility of our own building, and the process was begun.