Seaside Jewish Community Breaks Ground on Synagogue Expansion
REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. - Members of Seaside Jewish Community broke ground on a project to expand its synagogue on Sunday. This project comes as the congregation stands strong against recent attacks made against the Jewish community.
Land next to the 3,200 square-foot building has already been cleared for it to be expanded to 8,000 square-feet. The sanctuary, social areas and classrooms will double in size.
Seaside Jewish Community was founded 23 years ago. It is the only Jewish congregation in southern Delaware. The goal is to make more room for its 652 members and counting. Right now the congregation meets in a building on Holland Glade Road. Seaside first rented its synagogue in 2002 and later purchased it in 2006.
"It's going to be a disbursement of different communities in different areas," says Seaside Jewish Community President-elect Marsha Davis. "We're all going to come together for a huge celebration in the fall."
"We are more than doubling the size of the building and adding things that we would like to see in a new building like a sprinkling system and elevator," says Project Manager Matthew Ash. "It will have state-of-the-art security."
These security upgrades come in the wake of recent attacks on synagogues in the United States and Iran making threats against Israel and other targets abroad. A $50,000 grant from the United States Department of Homeland Security will pay for video systems, alarms for doors and more.
"We have a nice program that brings Islamic, Jewish, and Christian kids together," says Jeffrey Hawtof of Harbeson. "The strength of that kind of community that makes this type of thing possible, we need that now more than ever in today's world."
Reb Lisa Levine expresses how important it is for different religious organizations to support each other as alleged anti-Semitic comments, like those of Sussex County Republican Party Vice Chair Nelly Jordan strike close to home.
"We stand against any kind of hatred, any kind of hate speech," says Reb Levine. "We want to make sure everyone knows that we are solid and that we stand with our brethren wherever they may be, not only the Jewish community, but the Muslim community, the Christian community."
"I pray in my heart that it was not meant to be the way it was taken," says Hawtof, who has previously served as the congregation's president. "I hope people realize and I hope she realizes that those kinds of things said the way they were can really be hurtful. I hope with some understanding of each other we can heal."
Members of Seaside along with lawmakers stand their ground on that issue. Senator Ernie Lopez says that's one of the reasons he made sure he was present for the groundbreaking ceremony.
"This community needs to see and not just hear, but see our local officials as they stand alongside them in their fight against antisemitism," says Lopez. "There is no room or place for that in America and especially not right here in Sussex County."
"When we have hate and hurt and harm, we all are affected by it," says Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester. "It was important to see that it was a standing room only crowd today."
An active capital campaign has already raised 70 percent of funding for the $1.25 million expansion project. Ash hopes a building permit will be obtained within a week. He says the project is expected to be complete 7 months after construction begins.