Celebrating the completion of a $2.4 million renovation at Temple Shalom in Succasunna, about 125 community members, dignitaries, and religious school students attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 1.
Among the guests were Ed Gates, who cofounded the temple 50 years ago, and his family. Gates, who has been on the synagogue board all 50 years, recalled the occasion on which the congregation broke ground for its temple. Sitting in the audience before the ceremony began, he told NJJN, “At that time, we had a donation of 10,000 cinder blocks, and everyone had to empty them off a flatbed truck, and everyone participated. This is a far cry from that,” he said, and concluded, “We’re very happy. It’s great for future generations, and that’s really what it’s all about.”
The new building includes the Florence and Edward Gates Founders Hall, a renovated meeting area named in honor of the Gateses and the nine other families who established the synagogue with them. It also includes a Judaic Studies Center, focused on adult education, an elevator for accessibility, completely renovated kitchen and social hall, and designated family room for simchas. The entrance was moved from the side of the building to the back, facing the parking lot. The sanctuary received new lighting, carpeting, and paint, and bathrooms were upgraded. Administrative offices were moved from the second floor to ground level, and the upstairs area now focuses on worship and spirituality while the area below is where day-to-day business operations and the religious school take place.
The renovation, which began last July, took just under a year to complete. The new building was designed by architect Seth Leeb and completed by Phelphs Construction Group.
‘Investment in future’
Temple Shalom was founded as Roxbury Reform Temple in the summer of 1960. Construction of the original building on South Hillside Avenue began in 1965. There were subsequent expansions in 1976 and again in 1988-89. The membership of the synagogue now hovers around 500 families.
“This is a new beginning for us,” said David Ensel, who cochaired the renovation with former congregation president Marcia Geltman. Ensel, who grew up in the congregation — his wife did, too — added, “This is our 50th-year celebration. To have a newly renovated building that really fits our needs for today and the future of our congregation is a huge event for us.”
Dignitaries who attended the ribbon cutting included U.S. Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-Dist. 11), Roxbury Mayor Jim Rilee, and Roxbury Interfaith Clergy Council president Rev. Joe Monahan. Rabbi emeritus Joel Soffin, who led the congregation from 1979 until 2006, also attended the celebration.
Following a welcome by congregation president Jeffrey Schwartz, religious school students opened the program with “In This House” by Beth Schafer, led by education director Corey Hermann.
“Now, students walk in and feel the building is relevant to them,” said Hermann. “We have great new programmatic spaces, and this is a place they can feel good coming into. It’s nice and clean, and they’ll have great celebrations here.”
Just before starting the ceremony, Rabbi David Levy told NJJN, “The renewal and rededication of our synagogue home is an investment in the future. It’s the congregation saying our work is not just about today but about generations to follow.”