Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, also known as CBST, is a traditional synagogue located in Midtown West in Manhattan, New York. While CBST doesn’t seem to identify with a Jewish Movement, I would say it is the intersection of traditional, Reconstructionist, and Jewish Renewal. It seems to pull from all of these areas in order to create a vastly open, welcoming, and inclusive community. While CBST’s focus is the LGBTQ community, all are welcome.
Review By Jewishly
I was skeptical about attending the services at CBST, also known as Congregation Beit Simchat Torah. This group is a staple of the New York Jewish community and is located in Midtown West in Manhattan, New York. For some reason after reading the website I thought services were going to be a bit hokey, and that the services wouldn’t in fact be traditional or keeping with a traditional structure. It was a bit hard to tell exactly what I should expect from reading their website, but when I arrived I was really blown away.
It was Sukkot, and the congregation was beautifully decorated. The community was extremely welcoming. As soon as I walked in someone greeted me, introduced themselves, and handed me a prayer book turned to the right page. Halfway through services the congregation stopped for the Prayer of Peace. Members of the congregation spread out their prayer shawls over newcomers and said the prayer of peace over them as a way to invite and welcome them into the community. This small gesture was so warm and felt not only genuine but truly beautiful. I found myself thinking, “I wish I had grown up in a Jewish community like this.”
I was there on a Saturday morning and there were about 30-40 people present. Almost everyone was singing so it felt like an even bigger group. The prayer book they use is Reconstructionist, but I would say that given how they keep to the traditions of the service it very much had a conservative feel to it as well. Of course the prayer book has Hebrew, English, and transliteration.
This community is truly a gem. I found them to be filled with gusto, grace, and beauty. They were truly open-hearted. To me, this community signifies what it means to be a modern day Jew. While this community is focused on the LGBTQ community, all are welcome. I highly recommend you try it out for yourself.
130 W 30th Street
New York, NY 10001