You don’t turn 50 every day. So to mark that special milestone, Temple Isaiah will hold a series of celebrations and galas throughout the coming year.

To kick off its golden anniversary, the temple will hold “Isaiah Fest,” a free event for adults and kids, on Sept. 8 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the congregation’s home at 12200 Scaggsville Rd. in Howard County’s Fulton community. The gathering will feature carnival games and prizes, a rock climbing wall, face painters, a food tent and a magician.

Temple Isaiah moved into its current facility in Fulton in 2004. (Photo provided)

Other anniversary events over the course of the year will include “A Celebration of Our Beginnings’ on the weekend of Nov. 1, featuring the temple’s first full-time spiritual leader, Rabbi Steve Fuchs; a congregational trip to Israel in December; a “Homecoming Weekend” on Jan. 31, honoring rabbis, cantors and other Jewish professionals who grew up at Isaiah; a “Shabarbque” in June prior to Shabbat services; and a culminating concert with Wade Preston, who starred in the hit Broadway musical “Movin’ Out,” based on the songs of Billy Joel.

It’s all part of what Rabbi Craig H. Axler calls Isaiah’s “trans-generational” approach to its community and Jewish observance that includes the first generation of Isaiah’s congregants. Few people exemplify that generation better than Richard Goldberg, a former president and co-chair of the 50th anniversary celebration committee.

Now a Philadelphia resident, Goldberg and his family joined Isaiah in 1973, just three years after the congregation’s founding and at the start of Columbia’s life as a planned community.

“The temple was always very, very vibrant,” Goldberg said. “In the early days, Temple Isaiah just grew very, very, very rapidly, as [did] the Jewish community in Columbia.”

During its formative years, Isaiah held services at The Meeting House, a non-denominational space in Columbia, with two other synagogues, a Catholic congregation and multiple Protestant congregations.

“We had an ark and it was behind closed doors, which we opened up when we had services,” Goldberg said. “And if you were Christian and you had a crucifix, you hung it when you came in because there were no religious symbols permitted because it didn’t blend with the interfaith notion.” 

In 2004, Isaiah moved into its current home. Since then, the congregation has grown and thrived, something Rabbi Axler credits in part to the synagogue’s shift from a membership comprised almost solely of young families to one based on a more diverse range of congregants.

Rabbi Craig H. Axler of Temple Isaiah (Photo provided)

“We have folks who have three or four generations of members of the congregation,” said Rabbi Axler, who came to Isaiah in July of 2012. “We have a lot of growth of empty-nesters, folks who have raised their children or folks who are just in that older demographic, a substantial number who moved to the area from all over the country, perhaps to be close to their children and grandchildren and moved to Howard County.”

That demographic growth has also been matched by a growth in programming and a sense of community at Isaiah, something the 50th anniversary celebration committee is trying to capture with its wide array of semi-centennial events.

“One of the most important things, at least to me, was ensuring that we had enough types of events and celebratory activities that we could potentially reach every congregant, no matter what their interest level, no matter what their demographic was,” said Marshall Kohen, the temple’s current president. “We’ve really focused on trying to create the kinds of activities that will reach everybody, from our youth up to the most senior levels of our congregation.”

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Alex Holt is a Baltimore-based freelance writer.