Soil from Israel highlights Beth Shalom groundbreaking

May 27, 1994|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,Sun Staff Writer

The ceremony was simple and brief: grains of earth from Israel, scattered on the lot that soon will be the site of a long-awaited home for the Beth Shalom Conservative Congregation.

"It's a symbolic link between this land and the place where Solomon's temple once stood," said Rabbi Kenneth L. Cohen of Beth Shalom, who presided over yesterday's groundbreaking ceremony.

"It's a link between us and the Promised Land."

Construction of the $1.5 million, domed synagogue, at Guilford and Freetown roads, begins next week, said David Borkowski, project manager for Harkins Construction, a Silver Spring-based general contractor. The synagogue should be completed in December.

The estimated 10,000-square-foot, L-shaped synagogue will feature a 300-seat sanctuary, kosher kitchen, a wall modeled after Jerusalem's Wailing Wall and classrooms, which the Bet Yeladim Nursery and Day Care will lease.

NationsBank is financing the single-story facility, greatly anticipated by many of county's 8,500-member Jewish community. There was a ceremonial groundbreaking last June.

"It's a real important event Jewish community in Howard County," said Sandy Cedarbaum, an administrator for Beth Shalom.

"It's been a dream of hundreds of families . . . to have their own building and not meet in the interfaith centers."

Rabbi Cohen said the 210-household congregation has outgrown the Owen Brown Interfaith Center, where it currently meets, and needed its own space for a kosher kitchen and classrooms.

In the past, some county Jews who didn't attend Columbia's four interfaith centers attended synagogues in Baltimore or Washington. An Orthodox group meets in its own building, a converted farmhouse on Rodona Drive.

The 23-year-old Beth Shalom congregation, one of six Jewish congregations in the county, began the lengthy process of building its own synagogue about a decade ago. Construction was to have begun by the end of 1993, but was delayed by paperwork, said Mr. Cohen.

"There were so many paper hurdles to overcome," said the rabbi, adding that some in the congregation worried that the project might not become a reality.

Frieda Ponczak, a real estate agent and longtime Beth Shalom member, left work early yesterday to attend the ceremony.

"It's wonderful," she said. "The whole community is behind us."

Later, she posed for pictures with a group wearing white hard hats and holding shovels near a large white sign that tells passers-by of the coming synagogue.

Also in the group was Beth Shalom member Gloria Greene, who is president of Bet Yeladim Nursery.

"We'll be able to decorate and hang things up . . . in a Jewish environment," she said. The nursery now meets at a neighborhood center.

Although the 200-child nursery will lease space from Beth Shalom, it will remain independent.

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