In yellow kipot and plastic hardhats, about 200 congregants and dignitaries gathered on the lawn of the Summit Jewish Community Center on Sept. 25 to celebrate a long-awaited ground breaking for an expanded facility.
An air of joy and disbelief filled the day.
“It’s happening! It’s happening! I admit I was among those who never thought it would happen,” said Rabbi Emeritus William Horn.
The synagogue, established 82 years ago, has been in its current facility since 1954. In 2002 the congregation purchased two adjoining lots. Since then they have taken steps for expansion: undertaking a capital campaign, tackling engineering issues in regard to drainage, and navigating legal challenges from neighbors.
The $3 million renovation will increase the synagogue’s space by 50 percent; it will include a new sanctuary, a new social hall, a larger kitchen, and a multi-purpose room. There will be three new classrooms fitted with lavatories and air conditioning, new offices for clergy, an expanded parking lot, a new playground, and new exterior lighting and landscaping.
The facility, with new ramps and an elevator, will be accessible to those with disabilities.
The congregation expects to dedicate the new building in the spring of 2013.
“Mah nora hamakom hazeh!” — “What an amazing place this is!” said Rabbi Avi Friedman, quoting Jacob in Genesis (28:18).
Richard Barron, a past congregation president who spearheaded the project, said, “Here we are, huh?”
“We are on the verge of fulfilling a dream,” he continued. “We’re going to expand our modest little building and build a new sanctuary where we can sing ‘Adon Olam’ without standing by our folding chairs and moving a few steps in toward the bima when the sliding doors are closed.”
In addition to local clergy members, also attending the ground breaking were Summit Mayor Jordan Glatt, U.S. Rep. Leonard Lance (R-Dist. 7), Assemblyman Jon Bramnick (R-Dist. 21), Summit Town Council members Thomas Getzendanner and Michael J. Vernotico, and Michelle Rich and Patty Werschultz from United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism.
In an interview following the ceremony, Barron said, “This is the end of a very long frustrating period, getting this thing off the ground. We’ve long outgrown our building.”
Friedman added, “With Rosh Hashana coming, it’s a new beginning.”