DEERFIELD TOWNSHIP, Ohio - The Tri-State is rich in the number and variety of houses of worship. In our weekly feature, WCPO shines the spotlight on where we pray.
Northern Hills Synagogue – Congregation B’nai Avraham
Address: 5714 Fields Ertel Road
Denomination: Jewish (Conservative)
Spiritual Leader: Rabbi George Barnard
Size of Congregation: 200 households
Northern Hills Synagogue is dedicated to the values of Torah (study of God’s teachings), Avodah (worship) and Gemilut Hasadim (acts of kindness). As part of the Conservative movement, it upholds the Sabbath, the Jewish dietary laws and the traditional forms of Jewish prayer with Hebrew as the main language of prayer. In all of these areas, the synagogue seeks to balance tradition and change.
Northern Hills Synagogue was the first Conservative synagogue in Cincinnati to embrace full religious equality of men and women. It strives to include all those who wish to participate in synagogue life regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, special physical needs, financial situation, religious background or familiarity with religious traditions.
The congregation is dedicated to lifelong learning. Classes for children are available on Sunday morning and evening and Wednesday afternoon. There are regular classes for adults in Hebrew language, Bible, Talmud and Hasidic stories, as well as periodic special education programs.
The synagogue stands at the center of a web of caring and sharing happy and sad events in the lives of its members. The congregation is proud of its many members who are active in the Jewish community and in the Greater Cincinnati community. Attachment to Israel is another core value of Northern Hills Synagogue, and the congregation gives special recognition to those who visit Israel or who have moved to Israel.
Northern Hills Synagogue was founded in 1960 in Finneytown. The founding members were Jews who had come to Cincinnati to work for Procter & Gamble, General Electric and other companies, together with Jews who had moved to the suburbs from the older areas of Jewish settlement such as Avondale. After meeting in temporary quarters for a while, the congregation built its first synagogue building at 715 Fleming Road in 1964. In 1967, Northern Hills Synagogue – Congregation Beth El merged with the Norwood Congregation, Congregation B’nai Avraham, which was no longer a viable congregation due to demographic changes.
The result of the merger was Northern Hills Synagogue - Congregation B’nai Avraham which is the full name of the congregation now. The Fleming Road synagogue was expanded twice, in 1973 and 1988. As many Jewish people moved to the northeastern suburbs, the congregation looked to its future and decided to move as well. In 2004, the current synagogue building at 5714 Fields Ertel Road in Deerfield Township was dedicated. It includes seating in the main sanctuary for about 300 with additional seating available in the adjoining social hall, a full kosher kitchen, a library, chapel, youth lounge, classrooms, nursery and gift shop.
Rabbi Bertram Mond, who served from 1960 to 1969, was the first rabbi of Northern Hills Synagogue. He was succeeded by Rabbi Henry Barneis and Rabbi Ephraim Rubinger. In 1975, Rabbi George (Gershom) Barnard became the rabbi of the congregation. He is now the longest serving congregational rabbi in Cincinnati. He will retire from the congregation at the end of June. An active search for his successor is in progress.
More about the synagogue:
Northern Hills Synagogue holds worship services every Friday night (sometimes at 6:15 p.m. and sometimes at 8 p.m.), every Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. which is the main worship service). Additionally, worship services take place on the evenings and mornings of every Jewish holiday and on the mornings of Sundays, Thursdays, and public holidays.
Periodic communal dinners and lunches on the Sabbath and festivals are a special feature of congregational life. The congregation collects food at Kol Nidre (the eve of the Day of Atonement) and year-round for food banks and pantries in the area, especially for the Jewish Family Service Food Pantry. It prepares and serves lunch at the Over-the-Rhine Soup Kitchen several times a year. In addition, it is a long-time Mazon Partner, encouraging members to use their family celebrations as occasions to support Mazon: A Jewish Response to Hunger.
The two major fundraising efforts of the congregation are the High Holiday Appeal and a gala event held in the winter or spring. This year’s gala, on the evening of May 11, 2014, will recognize Rabbi Barnard’s 39 years of service to the congregation.
In additional to social, cultural and educational activities presented by the congregation as a whole, the Sisterhood, Men’s Club, HaZaK (older adults), and Youth Groups (grades K-12) conduct their own regular programs.
“We are committed to serving God both through traditional
religious observances and through ethical and compassionate dealings with people,” Rabbi George Barnard said. “Our programming is quite rich for a small congregation, and our organizational process is democratic and transparent. Everyone counts at Northern Hills Synagogue, and we try to make everyone, veteran member, new member, or guest, feel welcome.”