The vote was unanimous — on Monday, May 10, the Scotch Plains Planning Board approved the building application for Temple Sholom on Lake Avenue.
The 250-family congregation, which started in Plainfield in 1913 and took up temporary residence in the Fanwood Presbyterian Church in 2003, acquired the five-acre site three years ago and has been waiting since then to clear this last hurdle.
Congregation president Steve Saltzman said, “I can say that this was a truly historic moment in the life of our congregation. So many people worked so hard for so long. We all put many hours into the approval process and now that we have it, we look forward to the successful completion of our capital campaign and the actual design and construction of the new home for Temple Sholom.”
He said a significant part of the temple’s campaign goal of $2 million has already been raised.
The temple’s Rabbi Joel Abraham thanked the planning board. “The congregation is very grateful to all those who came to the planning meeting in support of Temple Sholom,” he said, “as well as all of those who helped us get to that point, including congregants and professionals.”
There had been hopes to move into the new premises by the fall of this year, but the lengthy approval process and the economic downturn pushed back that date. Services are now held at the church in Fanwood, and education programs and other events are held at Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains.
The new building is being designed by the Philadelphia architectural firm of Brawer and Hauptman. In a press release issued by the temple this week, the design is described as “unobtrusive and environmentally friendly — intended to blend in with the residential area surrounding it.” The designers hope that the synagogue might be one of the first in the country to get LEED — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — certification, a designation from the U.S. Green Building Council.
There are hopes that the congregation will be able to move into its new home in time to celebrate its centennial. Building committee member Susan Sedwin said, “We will discuss this with our board and will develop a timeline very soon. We have worked very hard to get to this place in time.
“We will have our new home in a new century.”