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Rabbi Dena Feingold

 
 

Welcome to Beth Hillel Temple! I am so pleased that your search into our congregation has brought you to this page.  As Beth Hillel’s rabbi for 35 years (since 1985), I have seen many changes in the community.  We are now a congregation of over 125 units, including families of all varieties, singles, and couples in all age groups.  A proud member of the Union for Reform Judaism, we take seriously the URJ’s commitment to “audacious hospitality,” striving to be an inclusive congregation, welcoming interfaith families, Jews of all ethnic and racial backgrounds, gay, lesbian, trans, and gender fluid and non- conforming individuals.  Beth Hillel Temple has become a regional draw that attracts folks from all around Southeastern Wisconsin and Lake County, Illinois. 

As a native Wisconsinite and graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I have spent virtually my whole life in this area, with the exception of the 5 years I studied to become a rabbi at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem and Cincinnati, where I learned to love chanting Torah and studying and teaching Jewish sacred texts.   My roots are in Janesville, WI, where my family of origin settled in 1917.  There is no synagogue in Janesville, so we joined Madison’s Temple Beth El, about 40 miles away.  There, along with my family, we became proud adherents of Reform Judaism, with which Beth Hillel has also been affiliated since its inception in 1925. 

Even though Jews are a tiny percentage of the population here, a small city like Kenosha is a comfortable setting for me.  It’s how I grew up, and that personal history enables me to help others to see the value in building a Jewish identity in this type of setting.  In addition, I cherish a place like Kenosha where, while good deli, bagels, challah and Passover products are not so easy (but not impossible!) to find, the synagogue’s presence is recognized as important by the greater community, and that means a lot.  Our congregation has been a key player in communal affairs and justice work since 1920s.  I am an active participant in local faith-based community organizing, having chaired the local Religious Leaders Caucus of Congregations United to Serve Humanity.  I also have served the Jewish community as president of the Wisconsin Council of Rabbis, the Midwest Association of Reform Rabbis and as the chair of the Central Conference of American Rabbis’ Ethics Board of Appeals.

As we approach the Centennial of Beth Hillel Temple in 2025 and as I approach my 4th decade as spiritual leader of the congregation, I continue to marvel at the wonderful sense of community within the walls of our historic building and all that we continue to achieve in spite of our small size.   We never allow our small numbers or limited resources to hamper us in our goals.  We are proud that many of our youth have become leaders in NFTY, the Reform youth movement and our regional camp, OSRUI, and some have even become rabbis and Jewish educators.  We have taken several congregational trips to Israel and hold intergenerational retreats every other year.  We have a strong commitment to Social Action and have twice won the URJ’s coveted Fain Award for Social Justice, often the only small congregation among those recognized.  Seeing the need for accessibility in our old building with a sanctuary on the top floor, we raised enough funds from among our own members and former members to install an elevator and accessible restrooms in 2018, completely transforming our building, while retaining its unique and historic character.  Shabbat services are held every week and every holiday is observed, with the occasional leadership of our own, home-grown, lay leaders, when I am away.  Adult and youth education is vibrant and ever-changing to meet the needs of the congregation.

Please check out our website and discover more of what we are about.   And if you choose to stop by and see us, please introduce yourself to me and to our other members.  We love newcomers!

Sun, January 26 2020 29 Tevet 5780