BATH TWP.: The Jewish New Year is always a time of excitement at Anshe Sfard (Revere Road Synagogue).
This year, the enthusiasm will be intensified because the congregation will gather for the first time in its new sanctuary for a Rosh Hashana service at 7 tonight.
“The new building brings its own excitement and it is a reflection of our congregation: exciting, growing, vibrant and welcoming,” said Rabbi Mendy Sasonkin, spiritual leader of the orthodox synagogue at 646 N. Revere Road. “It shows that people are willing to invest in something that will benefit the entire community.”
The new sanctuary is part of a more than $3 million expansion launched last year by the 170-family synagogue. The construction project, which includes a chapel for weekday services, classrooms, offices and an indoor play area, nearly doubled the facility to 22,000 square feet.
The old sanctuary, which served as a multipurpose area, had temporary seating. That space is being converted into a fellowship area.
The new sanctuary has a contemporary flair and is decorated with furniture by Lavi Furniture Industries, based in Israel. The 180 comfortable burgundy and gold cushioned seats are the perfect match for the rich burgundy carpeting. The light wooden floor under the seats matches the lighter wood on the bimah and the podium. Both pieces are accented with a deeper, darker wood.
The bimah, a platform that sits at the center of the sanctuary, is where the Torah reader stands during services. On Rosh Hashana, which begins at sundown today, the shofar typically is blown from the bimah.
The hand-hammered brass doors to the Holy Ark (which contains the Torah scrolls) are also from Israel. They are accented with Hebrew letters that represent the Ten Commandments.
Two representatives from Lavi traveled from Israel to install the Holy Ark in the eastern wall. The ark is flanked by two stained-glass windows designed with Judaic symbols.
The window on the left contains ritual symbols, including candles (which are used in Friday Shabbat services); tefillin (a set of small boxes containing scrolls of parchment inscribed with verses from the Torah); a mezuzah (a piece of parchment inscribed with a Hebrew verse that is affixed to the door frame in Jewish homes); and water (a symbol of purity). The mezuzah and tefillin are reminders of the commandments.
The right window is designed with Jewish holiday symbols, including a shofar, the scroll of Esther, palms and a menorah. A Torah scroll is divided between the two colorful windows.
“This is a 30-year dream come true because prayers were answered,” said Joel Stile, president of the synagogue. “When the congregation moved to this site in 1975, there was a plan to add these areas that we’re now completing. We have finally been able to fulfill that plan, and it’s wonderful to have the new sanctuary ready to start a new year.”
Although the sanctuary still needs some finishing touches, the congregation can occupy the space. In weeks to come, an eternal light will be hung from the round skylight directly over the pulpit and Jerusalem stone will be placed on the eastern wall of the sanctuary.
A memorial wall also will be installed in the sanctuary. Each plaque, which represents a deceased loved one, will be adorned with a light that will be illuminated each year on the anniversary of the person’s death. All of the lights will shine four times a year during services designed to memorialize everyone.
“The light represents the soul. God’s candle is a person’s soul. Every person is supposed to go around sharing their light,” Sasonkin said. “The eternal light represents the Holy Temple and ultimately symbolizes that God is eternal.”
The lights on the memorial wall, like those throughout the synagogue, will be controlled by a computer system. That is a welcome technological advantage for the congregation because Orthodox Jews are prohibited from switching off an electric light (extinguishing a fire) on the Sabbath.
The synagogue offers daily services at 8 a.m. Sundays, 7 a.m. Mondays and Thursdays and 7:30 each night. Rosh Hashana services begin at 7 tonight. Monday services are at 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. (shofar blowing), 6:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday services are at 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. (shofar blowing) and 7 p.m.
Yom Kippur services are at 7 p.m. Sept. 25 and 8:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Sept. 26.
“We are very excited to be starting a new year in a new building,” Sasonkin said. “The New Year gives a person an opportunity to start anew. We now have more emotional strength to move forward and accomplish the things we did not accomplish last year.
“For us, this building is a big accomplishment, but we want to focus now on continuing to make us better people and the world a better place.”
Colette Jenkins can be reached at 330-996-3731 or firstname.lastname@example.org.