History

The first Jewish family of record to settle in Walden was Jacob Samuel and Sarah Leah Cohen in 1879. Other "pioneering" Jews up to 1924 were the Lustig, Altmark, Alpert, Tick, Silver and Leis Families.

The Walden Jewish Community Center was originally formed as a social organization in 1935. Mr. Harry Levine was the first president. A cantor was hired for High Holy Day services in 1937. He brought a borrowed Torah scroll with him and Mr. and Mrs. Tick provided refreshments for the 65 people attendant.

A Torah scroll brought out of Nazi Germany was acquired through the efforts of Mr. Leis. Mr. Tick provided lumber and a carpenter to construct a portable Ark to house it. Mrs. Molly Robinson made curtains for it. The first Friday Service was held in 1939 using an orthodox service since "none of the younger folks showed up". The first Bar Mitzvah was Arnold Dunkelman in 1940. The Ark needed to be portable as meetings were held in various members homes, farms and businesses until January 1943 when alterations were completed on a house owned by Mr. Louis Leis.

The house and property on Pine Street were purchased with the help of the Leis family, Mrs. Lustig, Mr. Joseph Wagner, Mr. Meyer Jacobowitz, Dr. Fredrick Falkson, Mr. Harry Zerler, Mr. Jacob Dunkelman and Mr. Herman Rudolf. Dedication of the Center was held on May 23, 1943 with a rabbi from Newburgh officiating. The name chosen for the synagogue was Beth Hillel. A second Torah scroll was obtained from the Nepolkoutzer Society, NYC, through the efforts of Joseph Wagner and Max Nussbaum.

Talmud Torah (classes for religious instruction) began in 1924 at the insistence of Mrs. Sarah Leis who engaged a Hebrew teacher and invited the children from the twelve Jewish families in the area to attend. They met in a small room in the Walker Building provided by a New York underwear manufacturer and at times in private homes. In 1937 the Wagner and Dunkelman Families transported children to Newburgh for classes. Other teachers were Mr. and Mrs. Rudolf, Mr. Solomon Zelmon, a Yeshivah student (who resigned because the salary was inadequate) and Miriam Leis.

Rabbi Passow served as the first rabbi commuting from NYC weekends and one day a week in 1945. Rabbi Herman served for the next two years. By now many of the original children were old enough to teach and lead services.

In 1990 a determined effort by the Board of Directors reopened the Hebrew School selecting Nava Herzog to teach anyone who showed up. In order to accommodate the 25 - 30 students, an educational wing consisting of two classrooms was added in 2001 and dedicated to Mr. Samuel Liebman, longterm president and supporter of the Hebrew School.

Congregation Beth Hillel is named for Rabbi Hillel, one of the scholars of the Great Synagogue.

Cemetery on Route 52 is the property of the WJCC but operates under separate by-laws and is separately funded.