With a heavy heart, Sandy Borken, vice president of Congregation Beth Hagivot, is preparing to close his place of worship after 14 years. This Yom Kippur will be the congregation’s last before Beth Hagivot shutters its doors on Oct. 12.
“We are very, very sad to have to do this, but it’s just become a necessary reality,” Borken said. “The main reason is a lack of attendance, and the second is financial.”
Beth Hagivot originally met in 2003 at the Fountain Hills Community Center, with sermons led by Cantor Howard Tabanek. The congregation moved to Fountain Hills Methodist Church, where it held monthly shabbats for more than a decade. Most recently, Pardes Jewish Day School teacher Jessie Rubenstein acted as Beth Hagivot’s spiritual leader.
“You would be hard-pressed to find a community more inviting and welcoming and friendly than the members of Beth Hagivot,” Rubenstein said. “Every time someone came to services, whether it was a face they’d never seen or a face they’d seen 50 times, they were welcoming and kind and open with them.”
That communal aspect is what drew Rubenstein to the congregation in 2012. Like other synagogues in the Valley, Beth Hagivot took part in philanthropic ventures to benefit the less fortunate.
Each year before their morning Yom Kippur services, for instance, Extended Hands Food Bank would bring a truck to the parking lot for congregants to donate food. This year will be no different.
“The way we think about it is that the food we’re not eating on Yom Kippur should go to those who need it,” Rubenstein said. “It’s a time where we can think about others and what we can give to them.”
Rubenstein is planning on using her High Holiday sermon to talk about community and looking forward for congregants seeking a new place to belong.
“In the Jewish tradition, we’re forbidden from living anywhere with fewer than 10 Jews in a given community,” Rubenstein said. “The reason for that is because of the importance of community. We are a people whose existence is communal. So, I’ll be talking about how even though this community won’t be around, you should still have a family to go to.”
Borken is concentrating entirely on Beth Hagivot’s last Yom Kippur service.
“Right now our focus is to have the best High Holiday services possible,” Borken said. “We’re trying to go out on a positive note.”
Beth Hagivot will be hold its Kol Nidre service at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 18. There will be a morning Yom Kippur service at 10 a.m. and an afternoon service at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 19. JN