Burrowed at the foothills of the Appalachian mountains, the city of Atlanta appears to be a mass of greenery, with gleaming skyscrapers at the heart of a spaghetti-knot of interstate highways. The city has managed to retain its native beauty despite the intense development it has undergone since World War II, becoming the South's center of industry and commerce.

For 200 Jewish families in the Sandy Springs area, the general prosperity is reflected these days in their new Beth Tefillah Synagogue. Girdled by trees, this 5-acre, 3.5 million dollar synagogue began 13 years ago as a small room in Rabbi Yossi and Dassie New's basement. The New family had just been sent as emissaries of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson of righteous memory, to Atlanta. Since then, Lubavitch in Georgia has expanded to four centers, two pre-schools, four Hebrew schools and a large network of Torah classes.

"We've watched the community grow over the years, and seen the incredible impact two people can have," said Mrs. Andi Arnovitz, who, along with her husband David, is one of the leading supporters of the Beth Tefillah expansion project and for whose family the social hall is now named.


"The News have really created something from nothing," Arnovitz added. "People out there are looking for spirituality, hungry to connect to their roots, and our synagogue is a testimony to this. Beth Tefillah is an incredible mosaic of Jewish people, and within this diversity there is an incredible respect and tolerance."

A large white structure, nestled among homes on a quiet upper-middle class residential street, Beth Tefillah is an organic part of neighborhood life. It offers classes, lectures and many individualized study programs every night of the week. Besides the expanded synagogue, which now seats 500, the center offers a mikvah, a pre-school and community halls.

Mr. Johnny Imerman, who together with his wife Lana donated the land for the new center in memory of their son, was filled with excitement. "This building is really the culmination of everybody's dreams," he said.

The building dedication was held on a sunny Sunday afternoon in January with the happy, picnic-like atmosphere one would expect on a sunny Sunday afternoon in Atlanta. Kids crowded the playground, babies babbled, neighbors and rabbis mingled. A quartet of musicians played an ensemble of Lubavitch melodies. Most in attendance knew each other from the classes and Shabbat services, and many had children attending the same Hebrew School program or younger children at the Chaya Mushka Pre-school.

Of the four afternoon Hebrew school programs offered by Lubavitch in Atlanta, one is specifically for children who learn differently. Rabbi Yossi Lerman started the program last year with only two students. Today he serves 17 students who would otherwise have been unable to attend Hebrew school.

"The dual curriculum is extremely difficult for them," said Mr. Robert Habif whose 9-year-old twins, Lindsey and Michael, attend the school. "However, this program works with the children at their own pace, and teaches them about Judaism through art projects and music so that they come home with a much greater knowledge of Jewish tradition."

Mr. Imerman, whose 9-year-old daughter Alexandra also attends the school agrees. "I'm ecstatic about the program. This is the best thing that ever could have happened because it gives my daughter the opportunity to have a Jewish education."

U.S. Rep. John Lewis sent greetings to the crowd, followed by Israeli Counsul Zvi Aviner-Vapni, and both present and past presidents of Beth Tefillah, Dr. David Westerman and Dr. Malcolm Joel.

Philanthropist Mr. Joseph Gutnick came in from Australia for the celebration along with Rabbi New's parents. The building is also named the New and Gutnick Families Building, in recognition of their support. Rabbis Yehuda Krinsky and Moshe Kotlarsky arrived from New York, representing Lubavitch World Headquarters.

"As we dedicate and sanctify this structure - built of brick and mortar," Rabbi Krinsky said at the dedication, "we ordain that it shall be a holy edifice, a building permeated with a soul. It will have a soul that will attract, that will uplift and inspire all who will ever come here."