A major renovation and expansion at Seaside Jewish Community is nearing completion.
During a recent tour, Matt Ash, community board member and project manager, said the project is roughly on time and on budget. Under the circumstances, he said, it could have been a lot worse.
Located off Holland Glade Road outside Rehoboth Beach, Seaside Jewish Community held a groundbreaking celebration in January. With an estimated cost of $1.25 million, the addition has been built onto the south side of the existing building and more than doubles its size – from 3,800 square feet to 8,000 square feet.
With more space comes a rearrangement of rooms. A notable change is the size of the main assembly room, where the ark and bimah, or raised platform, are located. Instead of a cramped space that fits fewer than 100 people, there will now be room for hundreds, said Seaside Jewish Community Executive Vice President Stanley Silverblatt.
Another notable change is the placement of the kitchen, which was on the upper level and right next to the main gathering space. The kitchen is now downstairs, with an expanded social hall and classroom space. The former kitchen is now an office for the rabbi.
Ash said the congregation enjoys having snacks after the weekly service, but that meant food preparation – noise and smells – would interrupt. Now, he said, food can be prepared downstairs without disrupting services.
Silverblatt said it was important to note the cabinetry from the old kitchen is being reused in the new kitchen. Seaside remodeled the old kitchen about 10 years ago, and people would wonder about that, he said.
Additional expansion features include updated streaming and security technology, an expanding parking lot with safety lighting and the creation of a Holocaust memorial garden behind the building, near the woods. The garden will be a tranquil place, said Silverblatt.
To expand, the south wall was removed, which made the space unusable for service during construction. Seaside had arranged with Epworth United Methodist Church, a Holland Glade Road neighbor, to hold services there during construction. Then COVID-19 hit in March.
Silverblatt said there were three services before gathering restrictions were instituted. However, the congregation responded well and participation has remained strong, he said.
At this point in the project, it’s a waiting game – delivery of the elevator is expected soon – and a time to start crossing things off the project-completed checklist.
The biggest concern for Silverblatt is how to properly celebrate the project’s completion. Seaside’s religious documents are still at Epworth. He said he would like to have at least a small celebration of those documents returning, and then maybe a real community-wide celebration next year.