First Forsyth Jewish synagogue to open

From left, Rabbi Levi Mentz, Dr. Joel Hoffman, Molly Cooper, Dr. Scott Cooper and Dr. Brian Hudes celebrate the announcement of a land purchase for a synagogue in Forsyth County. The first Jewish synagogue in Forsyth County will open in the next two to three months. NATASHA ROY/herald

FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — The purchase of land for Forsyth County’s first Jewish synagogue was announced June 2.

Rabbi Levi Mentz of Chabad of Forsyth said the organization has been working since February to purchase a building to convert into a synagogue for the Jewish population of Forsyth County. He said the synagogue, located at 795 Brannon Road, Cumming, will likely be officially open in two to three months.

At a press conference, Mentz thanked four cornerstone donors: Brian Hudes, Joel Hoffman, Frank Free and Randy Caplan. Mentz also said he was grateful to those who came to witness the historic purchase.

Cooper said that he moved to Georgia from New York in 1987, and that the one thing he was always lacking was a place to worship.

“I felt terrible that I kept going out of county to find a place to worship,” Cooper said. “It was even more terrible that I never found a place to worship in the Jewish place that I liked.”

He and his wife tried several different temples and rabbis, but he said he never found a connection until his wife came across Mentz. Cooper said that now he has found a place he enjoys practicing his faith.

“It’s great that we have this physical building,” Cooper said. “But it’s a building — it’s a shell. It’s only as good as the rabbi that’s at the top.”

Several government officials were present at the event. State Reps. Sheri Gilligan and Todd Jones, state Sen. Michael Williams and Cumming Mayor Ford Gravitt, among others, came to show their support for the Jewish population of Forsyth.

While addressing the crowd, Forsyth County’s District 3 Commissioner Todd Levent said that he was excited to celebrate the tremendous strides made in the past year for the Jewish community in Forsyth. He said he also looks forward to continued progress and growth.

“The Jewish community of Forsyth County now has a place where they can come together, where they can raise their children together, where they can study and worship together,” Levent said. “Forsyth County is well known for outstanding quality of life [that] our citizens enjoy, and this will certainly only enhance that quality.”

Levent also said that Jewish families in Dawson County and Lumpkin County will be served at the new synagogue.

Gravitt said that though he is not Jewish, Forsyth County’s growth was made possible by accepting the different faiths of the county’s residents.

“We have about 75 different nationalities and cultures in Forsyth County,” Gravitt said. “We graciously accept those people with loving arms.”

The press conference concluded with a mezuzah ceremony, in which the property was sanctified and declared a home for God to bless the building. Mentz said that he looks forward to having a place where Jewish residents in Forsyth feel they can come to worship.

“The bright future that will come from this location...will be the type of light that will give brightness and warmth not only to the Jewish population here in north Georgia, but will give the type of brightness and warmth to every member of this county [and] to every individual that lives in this special region,” Mentz said. “It will be the type of bright future that will bring joy and happiness to our children.”

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