CUMMING, Ga. — The foundation of the Jewish community in Forsyth County is expanding brick by brick, aided by the efforts of Rabbi Levi Mentz and the families who make up Congregation Beth Israel. The congregation is the lone synagogue in the county, founded to be the home for the Jewish communities living in north Georgia.
“If we weren’t doing what we were doing, you would have about 2,000 Jewish families in this county not receiving Jewish education, have a place to call home (or) tell their children what it means to be Jewish,” Mentz said. “It’s been an amazing journey of five years now and it's unbelievable the community space that we have created for the families, children, adults and seniors.”
The synagogue has purchased 10 acres that will become a Jewish community center for north Georgia. The property will be feature a new synagogue, pre-school, Hebrew school, social hall, Judaica shop, athletic fields and swimming pool.
On the morning of Sept. 19, the men’s club gathered outside to build a pair of four-walled booths to prepare for the coming holiday.
Sukkot, an agricultural celebration of harvests, follows the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Tradition holds on the eighth day of Sukkot, called Shemini Atzeret, a prayer for rain in Israel is recited. Sukkot is observed from Sept. 20-27.
During the observance, meals are eaten outside for seven nights in a constructed booth, called a sukkah, which is made of wood and decorated with foliage from nearby forests. The top is covered just enough to protect from inclement weather, while maintaining visibility of stars in the night sky. The seven nights serve as memory of the 40 years Jews spent in the desert following exodus from Egypt.
Mentz said the response from the surrounding community and leaders has been positive and the congregation had not faced any antisemitism since opening. When an international anti-Semitic event happened, Mentz said, the sheriff, commissioners and local leaders contacted the synagogue to make sure the community was safe.
“I cannot emphasize more how the local community has been so welcoming to the Jewish community and not only been welcoming, but has helped our community get started (with volunteering and financially),” Mentz said.
The synagogue is offering a four-week course on outsmarting antisemitism. More details will be available on the website, www.jewishforsyth.org, in the coming weeks. The course is open to the community.