In the late sixties, there had been a significant population growth throughout Mercer County as potato fields gave way to homes, town houses, and rapidly expanding communities. Because of this influx, the need for a Temple to serve those Jews seeking a Reform Jewish experience quickly became apparent. In the spring of 1971, two dozen families met at the Hightstown Fire House to discuss the possibility of forming a Reform Jewish Congregation in the Windsors. The result of that meeting was the formation of Congregation Beth Chaim in early 1972, with an initial membership of fifty-one families. A religious school was formed for grades K to 3, which met at different Congregant's homes every Sunday morning. Friday Shabbat services were conducted every other Friday evening at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in East Windsor. The dream of a small group of visionaries was becoming a reality.
By 1973, the Temple was sufficiently established to allow its affiliation with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and its members adopted a Constitution that enveloped the highest ideals of an open and dynamic Reform House of Worship. Also, during that time, the Religious School was moved to the Melvin H. Kreps Public School in East Windsor for Sunday morning classes, because of the growing number of school enrollees.
By 1977, the Temple finally had a permanent home on Village Road in West Windsor, and our school facilities were moved to the Dutch Neck School. Although the Temple building was not very large, consisting of only a sanctuary/multi-purpose room, a kitchen, an office and a Rabbi's study, it represented an enormous accomplishment and the tangible evidence that Congregation Beth Chaim was here to stay. The permanence and success of the Congregation was sealed when Rabbi Eric Wisnia was hired to serve as our Rabbi, a position he still holds today. Through Rabbi Wisnia's special brand of compassion, warmth and good humor, the membership of Beth Chaim grew rapidly. In fact, by 1980, plans began for a new addition to the building. Also, at that time, an Educational Director was hired to oversee the curriculum and education of the children that were now attending Religious School from Kindergarten through Bar/Bat Mitzvah through Confirmation.
By 1982, construction had been completed on our first expansion and the additional space provided the opportunity for all our needs and facilities to be finally in one location. The building included a sanctuary, a social hall, classrooms for all religious school grades, nursery school space, a library, a youth lounge, expanded kitchen and office space, and offices for the Rabbi and the Educational Director.
For the next ten years, the Congregation grew both in numbers and in involvement to Jewish ideals. Committees were formed to help Ethiopian Jews, Soviet twinning, outreach programming, scholar-in-residence weekends, Shomrei Tarbut culture programs, college outreach, social action, interfaith activities including an annual Thanksgiving worship service, and a whole gamut of other programs for both congregants and for the community. In 1991, Cantor Stuart Binder joined the Congregation and has provided many memorable special Shabbat services, as well as having performed in several prestigious cantorial presentations.
In 1992, the Congregation came together for a very special Twentieth Anniversary Weekend that culminated with a black-tie gala and an address by Mayor Ed Koch. A full wall-sized stained glass window was commissioned, designed and installed in the sanctuary as a permanent reminder of the event.
In 2000, Congregation Beth Chaim broke ground on yet another expansion to the building to better serve its more than 600 family members. The additional space included offices, new classrooms and an expanded library.
However, no matter how large the Temple becomes, either in physical size or in number of members, its Board of Directors is dedicated to always practicing those concepts defined in the mission statement: To provide an environment for the learning of Torah; to satisfy the religious, cultural, educational and social needs of the local Jewish community; and to present an understanding of Jewish values to the Community-at-large.