The growth of Congregation Brit Shalom parallels the growth and development of State College.
Prior to World War II, most of the Jews of the area lived in Bellefonte—with the closest congregations in towns like Lock Haven, Philipsburg, and Lewistown. As Penn State grew, so did State College and its Jewish population. As early as the 1930’s, a Hillel Foundation was established at Penn State, and the local Jewish families attended services there. A women’s group called Avodah organized and ran the first religious school in the Hillel building (then located in the 100 block of West Beaver Avenue).
This arrangement continued into the 1950s, with the community helping to fund the new Hillel building on Locust Lane. In 1954, local leaders began to think in terms of having a regular congregation, and, in 1956, the Jewish Community Council of Bellefonte and State College was founded. The congregation still used the Hillel building, but it soon outgrew the space. The congregation's own building on Hamilton Avenue was dedicated on February 28, 1965. An expansion in 1983 provided a 200 seat sanctuary, a library, and additional classrooms.
In 1979, a new name was added, Brit Shalom, and now we are known by all three names: Jewish Community Center (JCC), the Jewish Community Council of Bellefonte and State College, and Congregation Brit Shalom.
As the only congregation in Centre County, our denominational affiliation has always been expansive. For the first 30 years, we were unaffiliated traditional. Then, in 1987, the congregation affiliated with the Reconstructionist Movement. In 2001, the congregation determined that the increasingly traditionalist Reform Movement was the best fit, so we have been members of the Union for Reform Judaism since then.
Members of the congregation self-identify throughout the whole spectrum of Jewish movements, and we pride ourselves on helping everyone to find their Jewish expression in our worship services and educational and cultural programs.