Rabbi Hillel Baron and the Lubavitch Center of Howard County will honor congregation member Larry Schoen with the Lamplighter award on Sunday, March 5, to recognize his contributions to the synagogue and Jewish community.
More than 100 people are expected to attend the annual award ceremony, Baron said, which will begin at 6 p.m. at Temple Isaiah in Fulton, and include a performance by comedy ventriloquist Chuck Field.
County Executive Allan Kittleman will also receive an award for his community leadership over the past year.
"[For the award], we find someone in the community who has been a good example and could influence others by their example in doing things for the community," Baron said.
The term "lamplighter" comes from the teachings of the Lubavitch rabbis. In the 1880s, Baron said, a person, known as the lamplighter, walked the streets to provide oil to light the town's lanterns so everyone could see and find their way. Schoen's selfless contributions to the synagogue compare to the modern day lamplighter, he said.
"Every person should try to be a lamplighter," Baron said. "Light the lamps, i.e., set the example for and benefit others. That's how we should live our lives; not only looking out for our own physical and spiritual well being, but primarily looking out for the physical and spiritual well being of others."
Schoen, a mechanical engineer, said he's dedicated his services to the Columbia synagogue's ongoing expansions free-of-charge, while engaging spiritually in readings from the prophets and leading services. Schoen has been a member of the Lubavitch Center since he moved to Columbia in the mid-1980s.
He is the owner of Schoen Engineering, which specializes in mechanical and electrical systems.
"My father taught me that when you're involved in a synagogue in a community, you bring your own skills as a volunteer," Schoen said. "Since I'm active in the synagogue and know these things about some parts of building designs, I took on the role of lead design professional for the new building."
Current renovations to the synagogue will include more space for religious services. Schoen said religious observances and services were previously held inside the synagogue's classrooms, but will move to a dedicated space in a full basement.
Baron said the congregation occasionally has an additional award to recognize the hard work of someone in the community. This year, Kittleman was selected for a community leadership award.
"We're awarding him because, remarkably, he's been ever so present at every single event in the Jewish community. He's very engaged and accessible," Baron said. "I believe he is an amazing guy and worthy of this award."
After the county's many challenges last year, including the historic Ellicott City flood, Kittleman said he was inspired to see the community overcome them together.
"I'm extremely honored to receive this award," Kittleman said in an email Monday. "... The people deserving of this are the many who give up their time, talent and energy to volunteer and lead."
Schoen said he was also proud to receive the 2017 Lamplighter award.
"The community aspect and how diverse we are is especially important in today's world, where we have so many differences, whether it's where we come from, our culture or our political views," Schoen said. "My father donated his skills as an accountant to [my childhood] synagogue, so that's what I'm doing. In a figurative sense, that's what volunteers do."