Studio in Harvayd Row Mall
/re/9y /,- uks'A/ait
Opening the ark, Mr. Masson
showed me the Torah scrolls
which rested on a bed of
Jerusalem stones. "Our members
carried these stones back from
Jerusalem, so that we would feel
that when we pray, we face
Jerusalem," he explained.
The synagogue was officially
dedicated Feb. 4, 1985, although
Beit Gil itself dates back to 1970.
"GIL" is an acronym for Groupe
With 800 members, this is a
very small congregation corn-
pared to the large Ashkenazi and
Sephardic Orthodox congrega-
tions, which have a combined
membership of 3000. But it is an
It is led by Rabbi Francois Gar-
rai, who has been with the con-
gregation since its founding and
was also active in founding three
French liberal congregations in
\-? Lyon, Grenoble and Strasbourg.
In French-speaking Geneva,
members of Beit Gil are also,
French-speaking. But their back-
grounds are varied, reflecting the .
cosmopolitan nature of the city
itself: They come from Tunisia,
Algeria, Morocco, Poland, Czecho-
slovakia, Germany, England, and
the United States.
Mr. Masson's own background
7 ) typifies the diversity of members.
He was born in Egypt to Protes-
tant parents and was raised as a
Protestant and even served as a
minister for 10 years. "I'm a Jew
by choice," he said with pride, re-
lating how he converted to Ju-
daism in 1960. He joined Beit Gil
when it was founded in 1970 and
served for many years on its
board of directors.
He's also president of the Swiss
chapter of the American Reform
Zionist Organization, which fo-
cuses on sending volunteers to Is-
As we talked, Mr. Masson led
the way upstairs where we saw
four cheerful classrooms, each
with a wide window overlooking
the river. This is where over 100
young people attend Hebrew
school twice a week. There's also
an adjoining social hall for cul-
tural programs, as well as wed-
ding and bar mitzvah receptions.
On the way down, we stopped
to see something surprising; Mr.
Masson opened a door to reveal
a sparkling clean, cheerfully tiled
mikvah. It is unusual for a liber-
al synagogue to have its own mik-
vah, since non-traditional Jews
do not usually observe the month-
ly ritual immersion.
But a mikvah also is used as
the last step before conversion to
Judaism. "We built this because
intermarriage is very frequent in
this environment, and our con-
gregation will welcome convert-
ed Jews as members," said Mr.
\-) "Many visitors say they're
pleased to find us," said Mr. Mas-
son. 'They feel very much at ease
1 1 - day
Aug. 19, 1995
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