On June 10, Rabbi Peter E. Hyman of Easton’s Temple B’nai Israel led his congregants — carrying three Torah scrolls under a chuppah — around the parking lot of their new spiritual home at 7199 Tristan Drive.
More than 250 people participated in the ceremonial march, which was the culmination of a weekend of festivities celebrating the Reform temple’s new single-story, handicapped-accessible building with a raised V-shaped roof. (Inclement weather prevented the congregation from undertaking a 1.8-mile trek from their old temple to the new shul.)
Among the speakers at the dedication event were Rabbi Hyman, Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) and Sen. Christopher Van Hollen (D-Md.).
“B’nai Israel reminds me of what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said that each of us is here for a specific purpose, that we can make a major difference,” said Cardin. “You’ve given a home and roots to the Jewish community here on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. You’ve made a difference for the Eastern Shore, you’ve strengthened the Eastern Shore and you’ve made a difference for the Jewish people.”
Said Van Hollen: “As I look out today, I have great optimism for the idea of community and coming together, reaching out and making sure we represent values that have really made the Jewish community very strong and values we need to make sure aren’t erased universally.”
The nearly 9,500-square-foot building, on six acres of rural land, is called Temple B’nai Israel: The Satell Center for Jewish Life on the Eastern Shore. It was named in honor of Philadelphia-based philanthropists and civic leaders Edward and Cyma Satell, who were major funders of the building campaign and are friends of Rabbi Hyman.
Founded in 1951, Temple B’nai Israel was previously located at 101 W. Earle Ave. in downtown Easton. Plans are underway to sell the congregation’s old building.
The congregation raised $6 million for purchase of the land, the new facility’s construction and to create an endowment. In 2015, the temple purchased the tract of land on which to build the new synagogue. B’nai Israel held a groundbreaking ceremony last June.
“I want our children to learn our values,” Rabbi Hyman, who came to the temple in 2008, said at the dedication ceremony. “And when we move on, I want them to say that we helped change the world and made it a better place.”
The new building’s sanctuary holds 250 people, but can be divided into three areas for smaller functions. The facility’s design includes multi-purpose rooms for concerts, lectures and films, as well as a professional kitchen and social hall that can accommodate 150 at seated events and 250 for combined standing and seated gatherings.
A 3,000-square-foot patio with a pagoda enables outdoor worship services, wedding ceremonies and other special events. Rooms at B’nai Israel are available for rentals.
Drawing congregants from Talbot, Queen Anne’s, Caroline, Dorchester and Kent counties, B’nai Israel includes families with children who attend religious school and confirmation classes; retirees who have made the Eastern Shore their full-time homes; and couples and families with second homes in the area. Among its membership of approximately 200 are myriad interfaith couples and families.
Five years ago, B’nai Israel hired Levin/Brown & Associates Inc. to design the temple’s new home. Based in Baltimore, Levin/Brown is the most prolific synagogue architectural firm in the United States, having designed or re-conceptualized more than 250 synagogues during the past three decades.