Tours of Beth Sholom Congregation

Many area church groups have come to visit Beth Sholom Congregation over the years. Each visiting group is treated to a full tour by our former Cantor, Dr. Richard Berlin, who is pictured here on the right in the small chapel speaking to the visitors from the Trinity Lutheran Church during their tour (August 2002). Tours are now led by Rabbi Irvin Brandwein.

Cantor Berlin provided a rich explanation of the basic rituals, religious services, and religious artifacts in the main sanctuary, in the small chapel, as well as in the library and the historical exhibit area. The Cantor was joined by Isadore Suchman, a long term member of the Congregation, who demonstrated the art of blowing (sounding) the shofar. In the picture below on the left, Mr. Suchman is on the Bima in the main santurary demonstrating both the sound of the magnificant shofar and the skill that is needed to make the ceremonial sounds.  During the High Holy Days, Mr. Suchman is joined by children and adults who he has trained to server in the "Shofar Corps."  Their sounds help to stir the souls of those who participate in those most solemn ancient rituals.


Some of the other interesting items that visitors have a chance to see and to hear about during the tour include a carefully restored Torah scroll (the complete Five Books of Moses handscribed on sheepskin parchment by highly skilled religious scribes). This was the first Torah owned by the former Beth Zion Temple once located downtown, and it survived Johnstown's second most devastating flood (St. Patrick's Day 1936). In 1953, this flood damaged 19th century scroll was carefully restored as a Confirmation Class project under the direction of Rabbi H. Goren Perlmutter, and Dr. Myer and Sally Bloom provided funds for an appropriate storage case. In the 1980s, in loving memory of husband and father Henry Kaplan, Rose and Susan Kaplan established a fund, making it possible for this historic sacred scroll to be properly sealed in a protective display case for current and future generations to view. (Note: the reflections in the picture are caused by the glare from the glass case.) This Torah is no longer in use.

In the picture on the lower left (from August 2000), Cantor Berlin is shown demonstrating for visitors from Trinity Lutheran Church how a Torah is opened and how it is read (chanted) during a religious service. 

To arrange for your group to visit the Congregation, contact our office by calling 814-536-0647 or 814-536-6440 between 9:00 A.M. and 4:00 P.M. weekdays (except for national and Jewish holidays), or send e-mail to:



Visitors from Trinity Lutheran Church (August 2002)

On August 14, 2002 sixty (60) members of the Trinity Lutheran Church Vacation Bible School visited Beth Sholom Congregation.  The underlying theme of their visit was "Trinity Time Machine to the First Century Holy Land."

They began their visit by squeezing into the small Sam and Rose Berger Chapel, where the chairs had been set up along three walls in the style of the first century C.E synagogue.  The Cantor discussed some of the ritual objects of daily worship and how Jewish traditions have grown over the last two millennia.

The group then moved into the Sanctuary, where they had the opportunity to see and hear Iz Suchman sound his two shofars.  They also saw an opened Torah and heard a portion of the Torah chanted for them by Cantor Berlin.  He also talked with them about our modern synagogue and our services. A lively question and answer period followed that discussion.

Near the end of the visit, everyone learned to sing L'Cha Dodi and Shalom Chaverim, and they learned a simple Hora, which they danced in the aisles of the Sanctuary. As the bus left (at 9:30 P.M.), they were singing Shalom Chaverim and waving goodbye to the Cantor. By all accounts, everyone (including the Cantor) enjoyed the visit.

Below are some pictures of the Trinity Lutheran visitors taken at various stages of their tour.