Danville Express

Newsfront - July 6, 2007

Beth Chaim opens new synagogue

Congregation finally has its own home in the Valley

by Jordan M. Doronila

Welcome home! Beth Chaim Congregation's new spiritual center is now open in Danville.

Members of Beth Chaim celebrated the grand opening of their new 8,000-square-foot synagogue next to Sycamore Valley Park on Friday evening, June 29. The facility will be used for regular services and to celebrate weddings, births and honoring deaths of loved ones.

"This is a long time in coming," said Beth Chaim Rabbi Dan Goldblatt. "We are the first synagogue in the San Ramon Valley ever."

Beth Chaim serves the spiritual needs of more than 250 families. The synagogue, on Camino Tassajara and Holbrook Drive, contains a large space that will be used as a sanctuary and a social hall. The facility has space for 450 seats, an administrative wing, a conference room, a kitchen and a bookstore. Additionally, it has a 10,000-square-foot courtyard overlooking the hills in Danville.

"That's what we got, delightfully," Goldblatt said. "The community is so excited."

Three portable modules will be delivered to the synagogue to use for classrooms for Hebrew studies, adult education and other programs.

Goldblatt said the first phase, which cost $10 million, is completed. Beth Chaim eventually will erect buildings for a sanctuary and religious education. Right now, congregants will focus on settling into their new home, he said.

"We are now stakeholders in the Valley," he said.

Beth Chaim is the only major Jewish congregation in the San Ramon Valley, Goldblatt said, and it has never had a home. It has been using the Danville Congregational Church on San Ramon Valley Boulevard for worship during the past seven to eight years.

Approximately 250 families of the congregation donated $1.5 million collectively since April 2006 to fund the project. Developer Nathan Shapell, a Holocaust survivor, donated $1 million to help finance the synagogue, keeping a promise to match funds if the congregation raised $1 million.

Beth Chaim Congregation is 29 years old. A group of retired Jewish elders started it as a fellowship in 1978 and met at a church in Pleasant Hill. In 1985, it moved to Danville.

Its members found five acres, which were owned by Ed Holbrook, on Holbrook Drive, and raised money and purchased the acreage. Then they worked together to raise funds to build the synagogue.

"It's a lovely space for worship and celebration," Goldblatt said.


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