Rabbi Yossi New looks out from the huge windows of his sanctuary at the construction. The frames and concrete slabs will eventually house a new 13,000-square-foot, two-story youth and education building. The new wing will be used for the preschool and youth programming, as well as a mikvah. The original mikvah will now be used for men.
The synagogue has come a long way since its humble beginnings more than 25 years ago.
Rabbi Yossi and Dassie New started off in a storefront, and then purchased a small house to use for classes and services. They bought the house next door a few years later. “Over time, we’ve built on and expanded,” says the rabbi.
They reached a lofty 19,000 square feet, making good use of the 2.5-acre property. The new building, called the Jeff and Carrla Goldstein Youth & Education Center, will bring the total up to more than 35,000 square feet. A large covered playground is also in the works. They expect construction of the new facility to be completed in the fall.
The Jeff and Carrla Goldstein Youth & Education Center is expected to be completed in the fall.
The synagogue has separate meat and dairy kitchens, a large sanctuary for Shabbat and holiday services, a smaller room for daily minyans and a spacious social hall that can be used for special events and simchas. A mother and her young children are there, preparing food for an upcoming event. The rabbi pops his head in to say hello, and jokes with the children as he passes by.
New explains that the synagogue, in an affluent North Atlanta suburb called Sandy Springs, goes by Congregation Beth Tefillah—“House of Prayer”—which he and his wife thought was a straightforward name that appeals to a broad audience.
As director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Georgia, he helps oversee and offer support to 13 other Chabad centers.
Programs for the Whole Family
New says the synagogue’s growth is due in large part to its very successful youth program, in addition to its ability to attract young families.
“We need a facility that enables us to provide programming for the kids,” he says, including a “thriving preschool, and extensive and comprehensive youth programs.”
“The most important thing to attract young families is to have young rabbis,” he adds.
And that’s where Rabbi Ari Karp comes in. As Beth Tefillah’s youth rabbi, he focuses on the younger members, including an active group of teenagers. They lead their own minyan, he says, and the new space will benefit them by serving as a safe, welcoming place to “hang out,” learn, pray and socialize.
Rabbi Yossi and Dassie New, co-directors of Chabad-Lubavitch of Georgia
In addition to the new preschool, which will have space for 100 children, Beth Tefillah runs a Jewish Montessori elementary school called the Chaya Mushka Children’s House. The school expanded out of a need to accommodate preschool graduates who wanted to continue their education there. It currently goes up to third grade, but plans include expanding it each year.
“If we do something, we want to do it well,” says preschool director Dassie New. She points out the high-quality Montessori materials, the children enjoying fresh fruits and vegetables as kosher snacks, and small groups of kids learning Jewish subjects around a U-shaped table.
The school attracts families from their suburb and beyond who want a quality Jewish education in a progressive environment, she adds.
Ian Rattner, the synagogue’s president and a longtime member, has seen many changes over the years.
“It’s exciting to experience this growth and to be part of this community,” he says. “I look forward to seeing the new building when it’s completed.”