Temple Israel, Shaaray Torah join together for a common campus at 432 30th St. NW.
The city’s two largest Jewish congregations are in the last steps of a journey toward a new, shared worship space.
On Thursday, Temple Israel and Shaaray Torah Synagogue will complete the move into Beit Ha’Am, or “House of the People,” located on a common campus at 432 30th St. NW.
The renovated facility will accommodate both congregations, while enabling them to maintain their separate identities.
“It was necessary because the Jewish community, like Canton, is shrinking,” said Ed Buxbaum, chief executive officer of the Jewish Community Federation. “There were too many buildings,” he said, and fewer than 1,000 Jewish people living in Stark County.
NOT A MERGER
Nine years in the making, the process known as “Kadima” involved both updating and expanding the former Shaaray Torah Synagogue.
Temple Israel sold its facility at 333 25th St. NW to Malone University in 2010. The former Canton Jewish Community Center at 2631 Harvard Ave. NW remains unsold.
“There’s one thing we have to stress,” Buxbaum said. “This is not merger of two congregations.”
A third congregation, Agudas Achim, which is Orthodox, maintains its own synagogue.
Buxbaum said Shaaray Torah, which was built in 1959, was the best candidate for renovation. Beit Ha’am features two worship spaces: One large sanctuary, and a second, smaller space. It also houses the Jewish Community Center, the Canton Jewish Federation, the Stark Jewish News, a reference and research library that will be open to the public, and classrooms.
It also contains a kosher kitchen for Shaaray Torah members, who adhere to Jewish dietary laws; a non-kosher kitchen, an elevator, and small living quarters for Shaaray Torah’s visiting rabbis, who aren’t permitted travel on the Sabbath.
Beit Ha’Am was designed by Bialoski & Partners, a Cleveland-based architectural firm. Renovations were done by Hammond Construction Co. They incorporated artifacts from Temple Israel, including several stained glass windows.
Because the new facility can’t accommodate the hundreds of memorial plaques from the two congregations, Beit Ha’Am will scroll the names of deceased members electronically on a 40-inch screen.
Buxbaum and Rabbi Jon Adland said they think the move to Beit Ha’Am was aided by both congregations occupying a single, temporary space during the renovation.
“Everyone had to give up something,” Adland said. “Over the last year, sharing the space has eased the angst. We learned we can live in one building.”
“I think it helped Shaaray Torah members in getting over the idea of having to share its space,” Buxbaum said. “Change is difficult.”
Adland said that many people who were apprehensive about the change are now embracing it.
“People who struggled with the concept have driven by and are very excited about it,” he said.
Page 2 of 2 - “I think this is a pretty good solution to the problem we were facing,” Buxbaum said.
Adland lauded Buxbaum and Bonnie Manello for their leadership during the construction phase.
“I’m really pleased,” he said. “This building will last as long as the Jewish community is here.”