It was a homecoming celebration that no in-town shul has experienced in quite a while.
Last Sunday morning, Nov. 17, Beth Am Synagogue officially marked the completion of the nearly yearlong renovation of its historic Reservoir Hill home with a rededication ceremony.
The hour-long gathering — which concluded with the affixing of a mezuzah at the grand entrance of the nearly century-old building — was the culmination of a weekend of festivities and programs marking the Conservative synagogue’s restoration and renovation. (The congregation actually moved back to the building shortly before the High Holiday season.)
On Shabbat, Beth Am’s weekend scholar-in-residence, Rabbi Shai Held, dean and chair of Jewish thought at Hadar, a New York Jewish educational institution, conducted a pair of learning sessions in honor of the occasion, as well as on Sunday morning.
The $5.5 million renovation and overhaul project was part of “Tradition & Transformation: The Campaign for Beth Am,” a major funding initiative that the congregation began seven years ago.
During the renovation, Beth Am held services for nine months at the nearby Mount Lebanon Baptist Church in Greater Mondawmin.
Joining Beth Am’s Rabbi Daniel Cotzin Burg, Rabbi Kelley Gludt and more than 200 congregants for the ceremony were Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Baltimore City Councilman Leon F. Pinkett III (D-7th) and Marc B. Terrill, president of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore.
“I’m so proud to be here,” Cardin said in his remarks to the audience. “Beth Am is an incredible institution. The renovation you’ve done here … you’re very respectful to the important architecture of this particular building, but you’ve renovated it to deal with the needs of today. …
“Your roots are solid here, to your congregants and to your community,” he said. “Beth Am — house of the people, that’s who you are. You embrace everyone. Everyone feels comfortable when walking into this sanctuary. It is an inspiration to all of us. I am very proud to represent you in the U.S. Senate. Yasher koach [go forth in strength], good job.”
There were also musical performances by Rabbi Burg and Beth Am’s Jewish Discovery Lab students, as well as tours of the facility, including of the handcrafted grand staircase designed and built by local father-and-son artists David and Eli Hess.
Located at 2501 Eutaw Place, Beth Am, a congregation of nearly 500 families, was founded in 1974 and is located in the Byzantine-Moorish structure that served as Chizuk Amuno’s home from 1922 to 1974.
The synagogue’s designer was Joseph Evans Sperry, architect of such celebrated local buildings as the Bromo Seltzer Tower, the Equitable Building and the Eutaw Place Temple, now the Prince Hall Grand Masonic Lodge of Maryland and formerly Temple Oheb Shalom’s home in Bolton Hill.
The stone, triple-arched Beth Am building was reportedly modeled after Tempio Maggiore, the Great Synagogue of Florence.
Beth Am’s renovations included the installation of sound and lighting systems, air conditioning in the sanctuary, lobby floors, new restrooms, a fully renovated kitchen and the creation of a social hall on the building’s lower level that can be used for b’nai mitzvah parties and weddings.
In addition, the congregation installed new seat cushions, carpeting, and video streaming and recording from the main sanctuary. There is also now programmatic space for congregants and the general community.