In a quiet ceremony during the week of Chanukah, longtime Seaside Jewish Community members Stanley and Cindi Silverblatt hung a mezuzah on the exterior doorpost of the newly renovated synagogue in Rehoboth Beach.
A mezuzah is a decorative case containing Hebrew text traditionally affixed to the doorposts of Jewish homes.
Rabbi Emeritus Beth Cohen, officiating, gave the traditional blessing for a mezuzah hanging. Due to the pandemic, the only other people participating in the ceremony were Seaside President Marsha Davis and 2021 incoming President Joel Simon.
The ceremony represented the rededication of the synagogue, which has been under construction since the groundbreaking this past January.
“We chose the week of Chanukah to hang the mezuzah, because Chanukah represents the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem in 165 BCE following the triumph of the Jewish Maccabees against the Greeks,” said Marilyn Feldman, ceremony organizer and fundraising chair of the campaign to support the $1.25 million construction project. “The Maccabee victory meant that Jews were free to practice their religion again.”
That battle took place more than 2,000 years ago. The Western Wall in the old City of Jerusalem stands today as the holy remnant of the Second Temple.
Hanging a mezuzah on a doorpost is an ancient Jewish practice that fulfills the biblical commandment from Deuteronomy to write the words of God on the doorposts of one’s home. The parchment inside the mezuzah case contains several verses of text from Hebrew scripture representing the most important Jewish prayers, said Cohen.
The Silverblatts have been active members of Seaside since shortly after its inception more than 20 years ago, when there were only a handful of families and the congregation did not have a place of its own. The Silverblatts provided the young synagogue with four mezuzot when the congregation moved into the building in Rehoboth Beach. The mezuzah placed on the doorpost of the renovated synagogue is the same one that originally hung on the front doorpost before construction began.
“We wanted to maintain this link with the founders who helped establish this community and also to honor Stanley for all the work he has done during the renovation,” said Davis.
“We are humbled to have been asked to hang the mezuzah,” said Stanley Silverblatt, Seaside’s executive vice president. “However, we are among so many people who have worked so hard to make Seaside what it is today.”
In a video recorded by Jason Fruchtman at the ceremony, Davis thanked all volunteers and donors who have made it possible for Seaside to be where it is today. She recognized Matthew Ash,expansion project manager and chair of Seaside’s house committee, for his work throughout the construction process.
After saying the prayers for the mezuzah hanging, Cohen said additional prayers and ceremonies will take place once the building is open.
Established in 1997 by a handful of people, Seaside Jewish Community has grown to a membership of 600. By 2016, Ash said, leadership realized membership was outgrowing Seaside’s small home, purchased in 2006. A decision to double the size of the building was made through a process of membership surveys, needs assessments and discussions with construction experts.
“The work of the house committee demonstrates the strength of Seaside as a community of volunteers, with a committee of over 15 members meeting over 20 times during the past two years to plan the project,” said Ash.
More than 150 people attended Seaside’s groundbreaking Jan. 5. Dignitaries included U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester; Delaware State Auditor Kathy McGuiness, who presented a proclamation from her office in support of Seaside; Sen. Ernie Lopez, R-Lewes; Speaker of the House Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach; and Robert Coupe, Delaware Department of Safety and Homeland Security secretary, who brought words of support from Gov. John Carney. Also in attendance was A.J. Schall Jr., director of the Delaware Emergency Management Agency. U.S. Sen. Tom Carper recently paid a visit to Seaside while he was in southern Delaware.
Seaside is the only Jewish congregation in southern Delaware. While it has had a part-time rabbi for many years, it now has an interim rabbi as it searches for a full-time rabbi. The community offers an extensive schedule of worship services, youth and adult educational programs, and service projects. It has continued to offer many programs through the pandemic by using Zoom technology.
Seaside Jewish Community is an unaffiliated, egalitarian and inclusive community that embraces all levels of observance and promotes a sense of extended family among members. For more information, go to seasidejewishcommunity.com.