During the summer of 1959, two Jewish young women, who were in Chautauqua studying music, made inquiries and discovered that there was a synagogue in Jamestown. They asked whether they might attend Friday night services. Their housemother helped them to contact the Rabbi of Jamestown, who agreed to come to Chautauqua for a Saturday morning service. The two young women posted signs around the Institute and on Saturday morning 35 people came to the first Jewish service in the Hall of Missions. The Hebrew Congregation was formally established in 1960, and celebrated its 50th Anniversary on the grounds of Chautauqua Institution in 2010. Throughout the years, the support and encouragement from the Chautauqua Administration and Department of Religion have been essential to our success.
The Hebrew Congregation holds Friday evening services at the lake (near the Bell Tower) and Saturday morning services at the Hurlbut Sanctuary. We enable members of the Jewish Community to observe life cycle events, such as saying Kaddish, commemorating Anniversaries and Birthdays at Services, and having a Bar or Bat Mitzvah. Our Sunday night Speaker series is named after Shirley Lazarus, who organized this highly successful program. Our Tuesday afternoon social hour at the Everett Jewish Life Center encourages Chautauquans to meet in an informal atmosphere and enjoy light refreshments. We also have Community Shabbat dinners twice per season, held at the Everett Center.
Additionally, we contribute to the larger Chautauqua Community through financial support of the Everett Center, Hurlbut Church and Department of Religion. The Everett Center and Hurlbut Church provide us with facilities for our programs and the Department of Religion provides an organizational home within the Chautauqua Institution. We also sponsor several music students, enabling them to spend a summer studying at Chautauqua.