Beth Yam

4501 Meeting Street
Hilton Head Island, SC 29926

Year Built: 1989

Architect: Keane/Robinson Associates

Years Active: 1981 – Present

Architectural Overview

Congregation History

Seeds are Planted
Cosimo and Deborah Urato’s wedding in 1974 is regarded as the first Jewish wedding in Hilton Head. Five years later, thirty people attended a Passover seder marking the beginning of Jewish community according to those in the Island community. Official congregational history states, “Knowing that there  were Jews living in Sea Pines and concerned that there was no synagogue on Hilton Head, the pastor of Christ Lutheran Church voiced this concern to his neighbors and friends, Sue and Hank Noble. In 1980 a notice was placed in the Island Packet inviting all Jews in the area to share a Rosh Hashanah dinner at Christ Lutheran Church.”1 Following the dinner, several attendees decided that they would like to establish a formal Jewish community on the island. Just a few months later, there was a pot-luck style Seder in which ninety-seven people attended.2

On May 1, 1981,  twenty-six local Jews gathered at Hank and Sue Noble’s home to light Shabbat candles and recite Kiddush. A few days later, the community organized a Steering Committee and formed a number of subcommittees. On May 29, fifty-four community members voted on and accepted the designation of “The Jewish Community of Hilton Head.”3 That same evening, they decided to establish a religious school.  The Jewish community held their first Shabbat service at the First Presbyterian Church on the Island. In July 1981, the community renamed itself, the “Jewish Community Association of Hilton Head (JCA).”4

In 1982, one hundred family members were part of Beth Yam though there was no permanent rabbi. Following the merger of two Pennsylvania synagogues, the JCA received a Torah and religious school textbooks.5

In 1984, the community continued its search for a rabbi.  Meanwhile, the Klaus family donated a Westminster Torah in honor of Ethel Shapiro, one of Beth Yam’s founding members. Adam Noble’s Bar Mitzvah was the very first in the congregation and Samuel Urato’s Brit Milah was also the first for the congregation. Finally, the congregation decided they would hire a student while they continued their search for a Rabbi. Nina Mizrahi, a fourth year rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College, was hired as an interim rabbi.6

At the end of the year, the community established a fund with the intent to pay for the construction of a new building. In June 1985, the congregation adopted the formal designation,  Beth Yam, meaning house of the sea. At this same meeting, the congregation re-elected Bernice Berman for a  second term as president and they offered Rabbi Mizrahi a contract to stay on for a second year as a part-time rabbi.7

Growth in More Ways than One
Following her ordination, Rabbi Mizrahi was replaced by another rabbinical student, David Holtz. By August 1987, the congregation had raised almost $100,000 to build a synagogue, and the town formally approved the site plan. Construction of the new building began in June 1989. That same year, the congregation hired Rabbi Ted Levy to serve for the duration of 1989-1990.8 On Sunday January 14, 1990, the congregation held the new synagogue dedication though the first services were held the Friday before. The congregation joined the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, now the Union for Reform Judaism, in 1992.

By 1997, Jewish women from the community established a  Sisterhood and local Hadassah chapter. At this time, the community boasted  over 270 members and 39 religious school students.

Rabbi Levy announced his resignation following the end of Rosh Hashanah services in October 1997. In June, Rabbi Koplin was hired and by July, he was hosting weekly shabbat services.  In addition to a religious school, the synagogue offered Adult Education classes, including Torah study, Hebrew study, history and philosophy education, and a Taste of Judaism.9

The New Millennium
Rabbi Koplin left in 2001 at the end of his contract and it took some time to find his replacement. The congregation finally hired Rabbi Richard Address as an interim rabbi who would offer services only once a month, on High Holy Days, and other major holidays. In 2002, Beth Yam hired Rabbi Mark Covitz.10 The congregation also established a Men’s Club, a Junior and Senior Youth Group The synagogue continued to boast a sizable membership of at  least 167 people. In 2007, 41 students were enrolled in Beth Yam’s religious school. After Rabbi Covitz’s resignation in 2010, Rabbi Brad Bloom was hired. He has led services full-time since then.11

As of 2014, there were 53 religious school students and children from interfaith families made up 80% of the students.12

MST #808: Congregation Beth Yam, Hilton Head Island, SC
Congregation Beth Yam in Hilton Head Island South Carolina is the home to Holocaust Memorial Scroll #808. The Nazis invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939 and immediately began their systemic persecution of the nation’s Jewish population. This persecution came in many forms, including confiscation of Jewish owned businesses and property. Eventually, in 1942, the Nazis authorities issued an order requiring Jewish communities throughout the regions of Bohemia and Moravia to send their religious objects to the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague.1 These confiscated items remained in the basement of the synagogue until 1963, when they were rediscovered by members of the Memorial Scrolls Trust.2 Among these artifacts was MST #808, a Torah originally from the town of Podivin, also known as Kostel, in modern-day Czechia.

Podivin is a small town located in Moravia. The Jewish community there is the oldest in the region, with the synagogue said to have been built in 1630 and renovated in 1820.3 The Podivin Jewish community reached its peak in 1857 with 684 individuals but by 1930 this number had dwindled to 196.4 Many members of the community fought in World War 1, with 14 killed in the conflict.5 The community of Podivin was deported to Theresienstadt between 1941 and 1942 and only 6 people survived until the end of the war.6 MST #808 came to Beth Yam in 1984—just in time for the congregation’s first Bar Mitzvah.7 It is not the only Torah to be linked to Podivin. Since 1996, Makom Shalom in Chicago has been the home to MST #1499, created around the turn of the 20th century.8 Both Makom Shalom and Congregation Beth Yam actively use their scrolls during regular ritual life.

1. Memorial Scrolls Trust, “Our Story: Bohemia and Moravia,” Memorial Scrolls Trust, n.d.,
2. Memorial Scrolls Trust, “Our Story: London,” Memorial Scrolls Trust, n.d.,
3. Museum of the Jewish People, “Podivin,” ANU: Museum of the Jewish People, n.d.,; Makom Shalom, “Our Podivin Torah,” Makom Shalom Chicago, n.d.,
4. Museum of the Jewish People, “Podivin.”
5. Museum of the Jewish People.
6. Museum of the Jewish People.
7. Howard Rothchild and Grace Shaffer, “Cong. Beth Yam’s Holocaust Torah,” September 18, 2022.
8. Makom Shalom, “Our Podivin Torah.”


1. Michael Fritz and Robert Pascal, “A History of Congregation Beth Yam,” n.d.
2. Fritz and Pascal.
3. Fritz and Pascal.
4. Fritz and Pascal.
5. Fritz and Pascal.
6. Fritz and Pascal.
7. Fritz and Pascal.
8. Fritz and Pascal.
9. Fritz and Pascal.
10. Fritz and Pascal.
11. Fritz and Pascal.
12. Fritz and Pascal.

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