$6 MILLION GROUND-BREAKING CEREMONY LOOKS TO THE FUTURE

By Al Shams
AJT CONTRIBUTOR

Last Sunday, May 4, B’nai Torah held ground-breaking ceremonies for a $6 million expansion and upgrade to its facilities on Mount Vernon Highway in Sandy Springs. B’nai Torah moved to its current location in the spring of 1985, after having held its services for four years in area schools and churches. In 1982, several farsighted members purchased a parcel of land in Sandy Springs, but fate stepped in and that parcel was sold for a significant gain. Those proceeds were applied toward the construction of the current building, with a lower than expected initial mortgage.

Fate works in interesting

B’nai Torah was founded in 1981 by a small group of dedicated individuals who sought a traditional Jewish atmosphere in north Atlanta. Membership is diverse and all ages are represented with many different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Shabbat and festival services are offered as well as daily Minyanim, morning and evening. Services are conducted in unabridged Hebrew liturgy; women play active and important roles in the services and all aspects of synagogue life.

In 2003, after a year of discussion and reflection, the congregation voted to join the conservative movement. It was felt that this affiliation would offer more avenues for spiritual and personal growth. In 2004 the synagogue was fortunate to secure the services of Rabbi Joshua Heller. Heller’s family has a long history of serving communities as Rabbis. Under his spiritual leadership, the congregation has seen dramatic growth and in 2009 Rabbi Eytan Kenter joined as associate Rabbi.

This ground-breaking event is the culmination of much careful planning; these steps are designed to accommodate the congregation’s needs for the next 10-15 years. Some areas undergoing major renovations are:

  • Social Hall – doubling of size, movable partitions to be installed, room for six additional classrooms
  • Sanctuary – pews to be removed, individual seating to be installed, Bima to be re- centered, floors, walls and ceilings to be upgraded
  • Kitchen – redesigned to serve larger functions, food preparation to be eased
  • Bathrooms – renovate existing facilities, expand women’s bathroom, construct new facilities adjacent to social hall
  • Pre- School – renovate, upgrade and expand; capacity increased from 70 to 100 children.
  • Rabbis’ and Administrative Staff Offices – double the size, current facilities were designed for 400 families, membership is now 700 families
  • Common Areas – new roof, security and phone system, high energy windows to be installed, improved lighting and HVAC systems.
  • Capital Campaign

For the past year, the congregation has been in the midst of a major capital funding program. Membership pledges currently exceed $4.2 million of the estimated $6 million needed. The congregation welcomes contributions from non- members and naming rights are available.

During the ceremony, comments were offered by various dignitaries. Rabbi Kenter, who along with his wife Staci, are expectant parents, stated that next to being a dad, this is a memorable event symbolizing rebirth, recommitment and new opportunities. Brian Mand, outgoing president, recognized various community leaders, past presidents and members whose hard work and contributions made this event possible.

Rabbi Heller concluded the event by offering a series of special prayers during which people who played an important role were honored with a chance “to turn the dirt.” The most poignant moment occurred when Rabbi Heller invited all the young children to take their turn for pictures “behind the shovel.” These youngsters, the future of our congregation, will look back on this moment with great nostalgia.

The formal service ended with Rabbi Heller offering the traditional Shehecheyanu prayer, thanking G-d for preserving, sustaining and enabling us to be present for this wonderful event. An undertaking of this magnitude represents a great deal of hope and confidence for the future, classic Jewish values. Without hope, without confidence in the future, without a sense of community and commitment, we would live shallow lives. Editor’s note: for more, visit their website www.bnaitorah.org

Al Shams is a Sandy Springs resident, longtime member of B’nai Torah, a former CPA and an investment professional with more than 36 years of industry experience.