Beth Shalom needs a larger home Temple is raising funds for $2 million expansion

September 26, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Limited space, leaky roofs and a growing congregation have led leaders at Temple Beth Shalom to kick off a campaign to raise $2 million for expansion.

"I think now is really the right time" for expansion, said Michael Kirsch, president of the county's largest synagogue, located on Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard in Arnold. "We've come up against the physical limitations of the buildings and space."

Members have raised about $300,000 and hope to raise the rest of the money by next March, said Beth Plavner, chairwoman of the fund-raising campaign. Work would begin early next summer.

Kirsch made the announcement before the congregation two weeks ago during Rosh Hashanah services. Rabbi Robert Klensin said the Jewish new year was a symbolic opportunity.

"Rosh Hashanah, as a time of renewal, is a most appropriate opening day," he said. "Fundamentally, this campaign is all about investing in the spiritual and educational growth of our current and future membership and their children."

Since the synagogue was built in 1972, it has undergone a series of changes. Klensin, who joined the congregation two years after it opened, remembers when about 60 families filled the sanctuary and the religious school behind it.

But that number has grown to more than 250 families, who squeeze into the tiny sanctuary for sabbath services. The synagogue holds two services on the High Holy Days to accommodate the 500 families who usually attend.

The temple rents space from nearby St. Andrew by the Bay Roman Catholic Church on College Parkway.

About 240 students fill five classrooms at the synagogue, but three classrooms are small. The other two are in the social hall, which is divided by a partition.

Rain Burroughs, the temple's office manager and groundskeeper, said the students joke about the partition.

"One of them said, 'It's not a distraction. If I don't like what my teacher is saying, I'll listen to the other teacher,' " Burroughs said.

Further, the buildings are starting to decay. The back wall of the nursery has crumbled, and leaky roofs and broken pipes are so common that Klensin delivers his sermons on rainy days with buckets catching the water falling before his eyes.

Plavner said the synagogue has not yet decided what to tear down and what to add, but will sign a contract with an architect by next month. The temple has 11 acres to work with.

The fund-raising effort has become easier with the enthusiasm of the congregation, Plavner said. "They are very positive about it."

Klensin said he has mixed feelings about any plans to raze the sanctuary where he has held services for more than two decades.

"There are a lot of memories there," he said, recalling his daughter's bat mitzvah and countless weddings and funerals. "But I think we need to look ahead at what can be."

Pub Date: 9/26/96

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