Synagogues  /  Temple Beth Am

Founded in Amherst, NY during the mid-1950s as the “Suburban Congregation,” Temple Beth Am built its home in Williamsville, NY in 1959. In 2012 it merged with Temple Sinai to form Congregation Shir Shalom.


Temple Beth Am, originally known as the Suburban Congregation was founded in Amherst, NY in 1955 emerging out of a discussion group that formed in 1954. By 1955, the suburban group had formalized, with its membership drawn from unaffiliated Jews in the suburbs and a number of Jewish families and individuals formerly associated with the city congregation of Temple Beth Zion. The goal of the new congregation was to create a suburban synagogue associated with Reform Judaism.

At first, the fledgling congregation held services at the Amherst Community Church through an agreement with its pastor. This relationship lasted just over two years and the interfaith connection continued even after the Suburban Congregation moved to another site. In the first decade, the suburban congregation expanded rapidly celebrating many firsts including family simchas, musicals and more.

After the appointment of Rabbi Daniel Kerman in 1958, the congregation met at the new suburban site of Temple Beth Zion on Sweet Home Road. The following year, the congregation broke ground to construct its own purpose-built sanctuary at Sheridan Drive in Amherst designed by George Pearlman. Renamed Temple Beth Am, the congregation spent the next decade engaged in considerable fundraising efforts as the building expanded to offer more member services, including a kitchen, school, extra meeting space and a sanctuary.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Beth Am developed joint synagogue activities with Temple Sinai and Temple Beth Zion, and broadened its interfaith activities and civic involvement, including an active braille group, as well as observing congregational and member milestones. In 1973, the Beth Am community celebrated Rabbi Daniel Kerman’s twenty years as a rabbi.

Members became heavily involved in the campaigns to free Soviet Jewry, led by the Women’s Plea for Soviet Jewry that bought together multiple organizations.

After the untimely death on Rabbi Daniel E. Kerman on July 18, 1982, Rabbi Steve Mason was hired, and under his tenure the religious school expanded. The temple also hired Cantor Barbara Ostfeld, the first ordained female cantor in the Reform Movement and Cantor Mark Horowitz as the Temple Educator. After Rabbi Mason relocated to Chicago, several other Rabbis served the congregation including Rabbi Michael Feshbach and Rabbi Ron Herstik. In 2003, Temple Beth Am hired Rabbi Irwin Tanenbaum and Cantorial soloist, Susan Wehle. Both clergy members worked actively within interfaith circles (and Susan Wehle was also active in the broader musical community). At the beginning of 2005, the synagogue celebrated its fiftieth anniversary.

Tragically, in an appalling air accident in 2009, Cantor Wehle was killed along with all other passengers when Colgan Air flight 3704 crashed in Clarence, NY.

From 2011, Rabbi Tanenbaum worked with Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein and Cantor Sharon Colbert of Temple Sinai, as well as both congregational laities and leaderships to bring about a merger of Temple Beth Am and Temple Sinai. Congregation Shir Shalom, the successor congregation, is the first fully integrated joint Reconstructionist-Reform synagogue to be formed in the United States and worldwide.


First Formal Meeting Attendees 

The attendees at the first formal meeting are memorialized in a framed display at the synagogue and included:

  • Robert Altman
  • Norma Altman
  • Joseph Baker
  • Bernice Baker
  • Ray Bernstein
  • Anita Bernstein
  • Jerry Etkin
  • Sheridan Etkin
    Gladys Feldman
  • Harold Feldman
  • Al Greenberg
  • Barbara Greenberg
  • Hilda Koren
  • Bob Koren
  • Amy Melrod
  • William Melrod
  • Morton Meyers
  • Kathy Meyers
  • Mina Neidrauer
  • Dick Neidrauer
  • Bernard Obletz
  • Joan Posmantur
  • Richard Posmantur
  • Ruth Pugash
  • Evelyn Singer
  • Lee Singer
  • Sophie Small
  • S. Mouchley Small
  • Joni Stovroff
  • Morton Stovroff
  • Warren Zander
  • Fuzzy Zander


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Discover More

  • Temple Beth Am, Vinyl Disk Record, 33 1/3, Kol Shirah, “Voices of Song”, circa 1982
  • Melodies of the High Holidays, with introductory comments by Rabbi Daniel E. Kerman
  • For more information on Barbara Ostfeld, visit her website.


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We are seeking internal and external photographs, documents, film, mementos and written recollections relating to Temple Beth Am for digitization. If you have materials you’d like to make available for this purpose, please contact us.