Three months after its doors opened, Beth Shalom Congregation will hold a formal dedication ceremony today for its synagogue, the first synagogue built from the ground up in Howard County.
WJZ-TV news anchorwoman Sally Thorner will be the emcee of the 90-minute ceremony, which will begin at 1 p.m. at the synagogue at 8070 Guilford Road in Simpsonville.
U.S. Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes of Maryland, 3rd District Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin and County Executive Charles I. Ecker will be among the dignitaries attending, said Kenneth L. Cohen, the congregation's rabbi.
During the ceremony, scrolls from the Torah will be formally brought into the synagogue, and the entry plaza will be named after Rabbi Noah Golinkin, the congregation's rabbi emeritus and a nationally known educator.
It took a decade of planning and fund raising before the synagogue was built. For years, the congregation met in three of Columbia's interfaith centers. But once it decided it wanted its own synagogue, the congregation took the necessary steps.
Beth Shalom's 200 families helped raise the $1.6 million to build the L-shaped synagogue, which has a 300-seat sanctuary and a wooden ark topped by a Star of David.
It is the second synagogue in the county. The Lubavitch Center for Jewish Education on Rodona Drive is the county's oldest synagogue, a converted farmhouse.
The new synagogue serves as a reminder of the county's growing Jewish population, estimated at 10,000.
"Now that we have finished the building, the real building must begin . . . building of the community, without which this is just bricks and mortar," Rabbi Cohen said. "The building is just a means to an end."
Since the first Shabbat service in March, the synagogue has attracted 10 new families, Rabbi Cohen said. "We expect to continue to grow and grow," he said.