“ABOUT A YEAR ago,” recalls Rabbi Rick Steinberg, Senior Rabbi of Congregation Shir Ha-Ma’alot (SHM), “I was walking the construction site of our new campus when one of our construction workers approached me. ‘Excuse me, Pastor. I need to tell you something. I have been working construction for 20 years and I have never felt more connected to a project than this one. To build your church, in God’s name, means a whole lot to me.’ Other than the Pastor and church part, I was actually deeply moved by this instinctual understanding what we are all about and trying to accomplish.”
Long before that interaction, the project began with a conversation over coffee in 2007. SHM was starting to outgrow its facility. What should they do about it?
“In just two decades our congregation had grown from about 250 member families to close to 650, and we were facing a space crunch,” explains Rabbi Steinberg. “Although we were managing well, this issue was quite literally holding us back. We could do and offer so much more if we simply had the space.”
But then the Great Recession hit and the subject was tabled. By 2012 the economy had turned around and the passion for what could be was still burning strong. A committee was formed…and the rest is now history.
Warmth and Community
The congregation rallied behind the “All In” building campaign. As congregant Joe Kaplan explains, “When I was ‘synagogue shopping’ in 2015, I was struck by SHM’s warmth and friendliness, and attracted to the many opportunities for learning. SHM quickly became my ‘home,’ and I was happy to support the campaign.”
SHM’s new Perley Family Campus consists of two buildings connected by a covered outdoor promenade. Built for the generations, the energy-efficient campus has a great deal to offer:
- Main sanctuary, with the ability to seat up to 800
- Chapel, with seating for 125
- Social hall, with room for banquet-style seating for 250
- Beautiful outdoor space
- Large youth lounge, with a 400 square foot deck
- Music studio
- 18 classrooms
- Meeting spaces
- Multi-purpose rooms
- Office areas for the school and the clergy
- Inviting areas to sit, relax or visit with friends
Guests who attended the synagogue’s joyous Grand Opening Celebration on the weekend of June 1 – 3 were struck by the magnitude of what the congregation has accomplished.
The Grand Opening showcased the three pillars of the synagogue: a Beit T’filah (House of Prayer), a Beit Midrash (House of Learning) and a Beit K’nesset (House of Assembly). The new sanctuary was consecrated at an inspiring service on Friday night. Saturday morning featured breakfast and Torah Study. And then over 500 congregants and guests came to party at the gala celebration on Saturday evening.
More Space = More Services
“Of course,” relates Dr. Rachel Harman, SHM’s Co-President, “this campus is far more than a pair of very nice buildings. We have built an amazing, holy place that is already enabling us to do so much more for our congregants and the entire Orange County Jewish community.”
For example, SHM and Jewish Federation and Family Services have collaborated to form JFFS@SHM, a JFFS satellite offering on-going programs for teens and seniors, support groups and more. The congregation is getting ready to launch a new Saturday morning study, prayer and brunch program. They’re expanding their youth and social action programming, and offering even more opportunities for people to study, pray, and connect.
“With this new space,” adds Rabbi Steinberg, “the sky really is the limit as to what we can do. It’s an inspiring time at Shir Ha-Ma’alot!”