Testaments of Jewish pride through faith

Exhibit highlights 30 years of history at Beth Shalom



Hebrew for "pioneer," the word emblazoned atop each issue of a newsletter produced by Beth Shalom of Carroll County is a defining term for the county's first Jewish congregation.

Kenneth Holniker brought together the Taylorsville-based congregation in 1977 when he held its first services in his barn. Since founding Beth Shalom, Holniker, of Eldersburg, has collected every issue of The Chalutz, along with other materials related to the group.

The items -- from newspaper articles about its formation and the construction of its synagogue to photographs of past members and events -- chronicle Beth Shalom's history.

Beth Shalom will show Holniker's collection and other items tomorrow in a gallery-style exhibit, the first of a yearlong schedule of events that will lead up to the congregation's 30th anniversary.

"It's a celebration of the past, an affirmation of the present and a look to the future of growth," said Mary Miller, a member of the committee organizing the celebration.

In the summer of 1977, 17 families signed articles of incorporation, turning a group that had held informal services for a couple of years into an official congregation.

Since then, Beth Shalom has grown to a membership of about 100 families.

"Beth Shalom has heart to it, and that's one of the things that drew me," said Howard Miller, a trustee who, along with his wife, Mary Miller, has been with the congregation for four years.

Congregation leaders believe Beth Shalom has been successful because it provided a comfortable destination for local Jews.

"We reach out to all areas of Jewish faith," said Arnold Blaustein, the chief operating officer. "[It is] a place where Jewish families and interfaith families can share their friendships, discuss the ... culture and celebrate the holidays."

Blaustein also cites Rabbi Amy Scheinerman, who has been with the synagogue for five years, as essential.

"She's been a very strong influence on the religious, social and educational programs," he said.

Similarly, the celebration organizers hope their events provide religious, social and educational outlets for their congregation and the community.

Many of the prospective events may be timed to coincide with Jewish holidays. And in order to accommodate those unable to review all of the materials at tomorrow's exhibit, the synagogue will hold smaller gallery displays that change bimonthly.

"It's a way to show the present members how it all began and hopefully build up their pride and their love," said Howard Miller. "It's a great testament to Beth Shalom and its people that we're still here 30 years later and have plans to expand for the future."

The congregation has already expanded multiple times. Its services, which were held in Holniker's barn for seven years, now take place on a 12-acre site that also has a religious school and a cemetery.

Holniker's initial concern that the synagogue not be "off the beaten track" has become an acknowledgement that Beth Shalom has done so well it has outgrown its present facility and needs to expand.

"I would not have believed 30 years ago that we would have managed as well as we have," said Holniker. "To me, it's just a conclusion to a great adventure."

The exhibit, open to the public, will run from 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. tomorrow. Beth Shalom's synagogue is located at 2020 West Liberty Road. For information, contact Vicy Childs at 443-514-4623.


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