New tem­ple B’nai Is­rael nears com­ple­tion

Times-Record - - News - By CON­NIE CON­NOLLY cconnolly@ches­pub.com Follow me on Twit­ter @con­nie_ star­dem.

EAS­TON — The new Tem­ple B’nai Is­rael is poised to open its doors to Jewish con­gre­gants, as well as to the Mid-Shore com­mu­nity, next month as the fin­ish­ing touches are added to a project that be­gan with its June 4, 2017, ground-break­ing.

“This (build­ing) makes a very pos­i­tive state­ment, not just about the Jewish com­mu­nity, but about the gen­eral com­mu­nity — about their sup­port, the en­cour­age­ment, the en­thu­si­asm, the lead­er­ship,” Rabbi Peter Hyman said. “It brings tears to my eyes about how kind they’ve been.”

The new home of Tem­ple B’nai Is­rael, the Satell Cen­ter for Jewish Life on the Eastern Shore, is a nearly 9,500-square-foot build­ing at 7199 Tris­tan Drive, on 6 acres of ru­ral land that faces the Eas­ton Park­way.

“The new sy­n­a­gogue is an ef­fort of this con­gre­ga­tion to cre­ate a build­ing that is as use­ful as it is beau­ti­ful for our own needs and for the needs of the com­mu­nity,” said Arna Meyer Mick­el­son, pres­i­dent of the con­gre­ga­tion.

The 200 mem­bers of the Re­form con­gre­ga­tion hope to move into the new build­ing in early April, but a week­end of fes­tiv­i­ties to ded­i­cate the build­ing is planned for the week­end of June 8 to 10 for the con­gre­ga­tion and com­mu­nity.

Dur­ing the ded­i­ca­tion, the con­gre­ga­tion will march the re­cently re­stored To­rah scrolls nearly 2 miles from their ark at 101 W. Earle Ave. in Eas­ton to their new home.

The new sy­n­a­gogue was planned for seven years.

“It was a long process, but the right peo­ple stepped up at the right time,” Meyer Mick­el­son said.

Site prepa­ra­tion for the new build­ing be­gan a year ago.

“We talked a lot about who comes to Eas­ton, who moves here, who de­cides to live on the Eastern Shore, are into na­ture, into the en­vi­ron­ment, into the beauty of this area, so there­fore the de­ci­sions for the win­dows, for the nat­u­ral stone — all those de­ci­sions were based on (the idea that) this is a spe­cial place,” Meyer Mick­el­son said.

“This is a spe­cial place in the con­gre­ga­tion’s heart,” she said. “The build­ing shouldn’t look ex­actly like a sy­n­a­gogue in the city. It should re­flect the val­ues of the peo­ple who moved here.”

“We’ve been giv­ing tours of the build­ing to groups of con­gre­gants,” Meyer Mick­el­son said. “Peo­ple are re­ally thrilled with it. It’s re­ally be­yond our wildest imag­i­na­tions.”

The en­tire space, both inside and out, was de­signed to be func­tional, mod­u­lar and invit­ing. It’s also sleek yet nat­u­ral, with soft and edgy con­tem­po­rar y de­sign el­e­ments — think Dan­ish mod­ern with touches of rus­tic, coun­try charm.

The V-shaped, raised roof “mon­i­tor” that soars above the clear story on the front of the sy­n­a­gogue cre­ates a strik­ing new landmark along Eas­ton Park­way.

As peo­ple enter the glass­wrapped foyer, stretch­ing be­fore them is a lobby the size of a mod­est home. Named the Rabbi Peter E. Hyman Lobby in honor the sy­n­a­gogue’s spir­i­tual leader, the 1,745-square-foot cor­ri­dor will hold seat­ing ar­eas, a cof­fee bar and sy­n­a­gogue mem­o­ra­bilia. The space is filled with nat­u­ral light from its eastern ex­po­sure.

Vis­i­ble through the large win­dows are Sts. Peter & Paul Ro­man Catholic Church and Im­manuel Lutheran Church.

The lobby’s stone wall will be home to a frag­ment of the con­gre­ga­tion’s Holo­caust To­rah and a me­mo­rial box that will house the ner

tamid (eter­nal light) from the for­mer sy­n­a­gogue. Kad­dish (prayers for peo­ple who have died) in both English and He­brew will be placed on the wall. The He­brew Kad­dish will be let­tered by Hyman, who also is a tal­ented cal­lig­ra­pher.

Names memo­ri­al­ized in the cur­rent sy­n­a­gogue will be trans­ferred to parch­ment in a more mod­ern treat­ment and dis­played in the lobby.

Af­ter the Fri­day evening ser vice, wor­shipers will gather in the space for food and fel­low­ship. The con­gre­ga­tion was founded in 1950.

The sin­gle-story build­ing is en­vi­ron­men­tally sus­tain­able and com­pletely handicap ac­ces­si­ble. It is very dif­fer­ent from its tiny brick pre­de­ces­sor tucked into a lot that ad­joins the park­ing lot of the Univer­sity of Mary­land Shore Med­i­cal Cen­ter at Eas­ton.

“The best thing about the new sy­n­a­gogue — no stairs,” Hyman said. “You don’t have to schlep stuff up­stairs and down­stairs, down­stairs and up­stairs.”

The wall sep­a­rat­ing the lobby and sanc­tu­ary is con­structed of rough-hewn stonework. It re­minds some peo­ple of Jerusalem, Meyer Mick­el­son said. The mod­ern car­pet­ing is rem­i­nis­cent of shift­ing sand or rugged out­door ter­rain.

“You have a grey wall here, so you’re go­ing from this warm color all the way to the beige, and the car­pet color slides across in the same way,” Meyer Mick­el­son said. The color gra­da­tions of the car­pet­ing in the lobby seem to draw peo­ple into the sanc­tu­ary space, she said.

The build­ing is “warm and invit­ing,” Meyer Mick­el­son said. “It brings you into the in­te­rior, into the holy spa­ces — it in­creases in warmth. As the car­pet dark­ens, the wood ceil­ings, all of that was meant to con­vey that this a spir­i­tual place, and I think it does it.”

The multi-purpose sanc­tuar y is de­signed to ac­com­mo­date 250 peo­ple when it’s fully opened. It can be di­vided into three smaller ar­eas for con­certs, lec­tures and films for con­gre­gants and the com­mu­nity. A drop-down pro­jec­tor screen on the west side is de­signed for show­ing films. Seat­ing also will be mod­u­lar.

Ru­lon lin­ear stained, open style wood strips com­prise the acous­ti­cal ceil­ing.

On the east side of the sanc­tu­ary, the ris­ing sun fills the bimah with nat­u­ral light. Doors are de­signed to cover the ark, the cabi­net in which the To­rah scrolls are stored, when the sanc­tuar y is used for sec­u­lar events or ac­tiv­i­ties, such as “lots of con­certs” and wed­dings for those of other faiths, Meyer Mick­el­son said.

Don Bux­ton, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Ch­e­sa­peake Cham­ber Mu­sic, helped the con­gre­ga­tion choose the 7-foot grand piano that will oc­cupy the right front cor­ner of sanc­tuar y.

On the north side, a 3,000-square­foot pa­tio with a large per­gola faces a broad ex­panse of ru­ral coun­try­side.

“A wild­flower meadow will be planted, and 114 trees are com­ing in as soon as it warms up,” Meyer Mick­el­son said.

Land­scap­ing will fea­ture “at least one fig tree and one pomegranate tree,” Hyman said.

Larger wed­dings, mitz­vahs and re­cep­tions can be ac­com­mo­dated in the new build­ing, which fea­tures a pro­fes­sional kitchen and bride’s room.

“We worked with a lo­cal caterer to be sure we were putting in things they would need, so we had great help,” Meyer Mick­el­son said. “And we’ll do a walk-through with lo­cal cater­ers in May be­fore our for­mal open­ing.”

Rooms and spa­ces can rented by mem­bers of the con­gre­ga­tion and the wider com­mu­nity. The kitchen can serve 150 at a seated event and 250 at a com­bined stand­ing and seated event.

A large class­room area will be able to be sub­di­vided by sound­proof pan­els. “We’ve never had class­rooms be­fore,” Hyman said.

On the south side of the build­ing are a con­fer­ence room and of­fices for the rabbi, a fu­ture ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, the con­gre­ga­tion trea­surer and re­cep­tion­ist. Por­tions of the old bimah form the book­shelves in Hyman’s new of­fice. Other fea­tures of the old sy­n­a­gogue will be placed in the new build­ing, as well. “The Jewish star from the old build­ing is com­ing with us,” Hyman said.

The con­gre­ga­tion raised $6 mil­lion, enough to pay for the land, the build­ing and an en­dow­ment. Names of donors will be fea­tured through­out the build­ing.

“To have room — we just haven’t had it. It is a won­der­ment,” Meyer Mick­el­son said. “We have raised, in a very tiny com­mu­nity, the money to do this. The im­por­tant ... work that the rabbi has done in this com­mu­nity, in the con­gre­ga­tion it­self — peo­ple were ready to take the next step.”

“The time was right,” Hyman said.

The build­ing com­mit­tee started with Hyman and 10 mem­bers, which even­tu­ally be­came five mem­bers once con­struc­tion started. “Peo­ple with amaz­ing skills in this con­gre­ga­tion stepped up,” Meyer Mick­el­son said.

“That’s re­ally helped enor­mously. We re­ally had less money than any project they had done in their ca­reers,” Meyer Mick­el­son said. “There’s an old say­ing, ‘Two Jews, three opin­ions,’ and that’s been the build­ing com­mit­tee, too.”

Real es­tate de­vel­oper and first vice pres­i­dent of the con­gre­ga­tion Frank Men­ditch of St. Michaels is chair­man of the build­ing com­mit­tee.

Den­nis Podolny, an at­tor­ney and en­gi­neer whose last project was the Hong Kong In­ter­na­tional Air­port, re­tired to Taylor’s Is­land, joined the con­gre­ga­tion and sat on the build­ing com­mit­tee.

Also a con­gre­gant is in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tor for the project Bar­bara Port­noy Levine Spec­tor of Port­noy Levine De­sign As­so­ci­ates in Bal­ti­more.

“She’s re­ally been won­der­ful,” Meyer Mick­el­son said. “There was a great email early on from the ar­chi­tect to her say­ing he was look­ing for­ward to meet­ing her be­cause clearly some­one with four names must be some­one very spe­cial.”

Port­noy Levine Spec­tor part­nered with Lori Brown of Levin/ Brown Ar­chi­tects of Bal­ti­more, Meyer Mick­el­son said. The con­trac­tor is Wil­low Con­struc­tion of Eas­ton.

“(This build­ing) will just deepen our abil­ity to do a lot of things we couldn’t do in the old build­ing,” Hyman said. “The space gives us an op­por­tu­nity to cel­e­brate the hol­i­days, life cy­cle events and other kinds of gath­er­ings in a re­ally won­der­ful space.”

“We’re hop­ing to at­tract new and more con­gre­gants. We want to spread the word on the western shore that we’re here be­cause peo­ple choose to re­tire or to move here, know­ing that there’s a wel­com­ing con­gre­ga­tion — this is in­deed a wel­com­ing con­gre­ga­tion,” Meyer Mick­el­son said. “Warm and ac­cept­ing and open to di­ver­sity in all sorts of ways.”

“It’s been a very won­der­ful ex­pe­ri­ence with peo­ple wel­com­ing us,” Meyer Mick­el­son said.

“Peo­ple in the com­mu­nity wanted to be in­volved,” Hyman said. “Corey Pack, when he was pres­i­dent of the Tal­bot County Coun­cil, was re­mark­ably in­volved. (County Man­ager) Andy Hol­lis couldn’t have been kin­der to us. The mayor has been very sup­port­ive.”

“And the truth of the mat­ter is, our elected of­fi­cials and our city lead­er­ship and our county lead­er­ship — they have been un­be­liev­ably wel­com­ing, and not only wel­com­ing, but ex­cited about it,” Hyman said.

“The idea is that we thrive in this space, that we grow, that we wel­come new peo­ple, new mem­bers, new com­mu­nity peo­ple,” Meyer Mick­el­son said. “We hope that it will be a hub of Eas­ton.”

“My ex­pec­ta­tion is that the same open­ness, the same sense of com­mu­nity in­volve­ment, the same sense of be­ing a lead­er­ship in­sti­tu­tion within the com­mu­nity will main­tain and per­haps even ex­pand a bit, but cer­tainly not di­min­ish or change once we’re moved in,” Hyman said.

PHOTO BY CON­NIE CON­NOLLY

The new home of Tem­ple B’nai Is­rael, the Satell Cen­ter for Jewish Life on the Eastern Shore, is a nearly 9,500-square-foot build­ing at 7199 Tris­tan Drive, on six acres of ru­ral land that faces the Eas­ton Park­way.

PHO­TOS BY CON­NIE CON­NOLLY

Rabbi Peter Hyman beck­ons con­gre­gants and the com­mu­nity to the new home of Tem­ple B’nai Is­rael and the Satell Cen­ter for Jewish Life on the Eastern Shore when its doors open next month.

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