Earlier this month, Congregation Ner Tamid began having weekly worship services at its first permanent location in the Kennesaw Mountain Business Park on Old Highway 41, east of the Kennesaw Mountain Visitors Center. In addition to its worship space, the synagogue has a kitchen, classrooms and a community room all under one roof.
Previously, the Reform Jewish congregation met at Christ Lutheran Church on West Sandtown Road in Marietta, while its religious school was 10 miles away at Mountain View Prep, an Acworth preschool and day care.
While members of Ner Tamid said those organizations were “tremendous” in allowing the congregation to share space, the logistics weren’t always conducive to growing the young Jewish community.
Rabbi Thomas P. Liebschutz, of east Cobb, described having to store religious education books in a shed on the preschool’s property, while keeping the congregation’s Torah scrolls — which contain the first five books of the Bible — in his home. Liebschutz said there formerly wasn’t a good place to secure the scrolls or have easy access to them when he was working with youth who needed to study Scripture.
It’s a point of pride, too, for the congregation to have its own space, according to founding member Matt Berenson.
“We’re actually putting a stake in the ground … and it just adds credibility in having a place of our own and having our own home,” said Berenson, an accountant who lives in Smyrna.
Berenson said the congregation started in 2006 with about 15 to 20 families. With the next closest synagogue in east Cobb, Berenson said Ner Tamid now serves about 60 families in the west Cobb area, and some come as far away as Canton and even Carrollton in west Georgia.
“We’re very much a regional congregation,” Berenson said. “You’re not going to get lost in a huge congregation. You’ll be able to walk in and immediately someone will come in and greet you.”
Liebschutz said many families join the congregation because of the religious school. He called the Reform denomination of Judaism “a liberal approach to Jewish theology and ritual.”
“We embrace theology and ritual, but we don’t interpret necessarily everything literally that’s found in either the Torah, the biblical tradition or rabbinic tradition that succeeds it,” Liebschutz said, going on to explain “liberal” had nothing to do with politics, but people in the denomination have a calling to “social action to pursue righteousness and justice.”
Liebschutz said Ner Tamid translates as “eternal light” and is taken from the book of Exodus.
Berenson said the congregation is already working to connect with a neighboring church in the same office park for community events, and its members are active in working with the Atlanta Community Food Bank, MUST Ministries as well as other charitable causes.
Looking ahead, Berenson and Liebschutz anticipate growing the congregation even further and continuing its involvement with the community.
“They’re a dynamic young congregation with a great future, I believe, and (they) have given me great satisfaction,” Liebschutz said.
An open house is set for the religious school on Aug. 10, and a dedication ceremony will be Sept. 6.
For more information on Ner Tamid, visit www.mynertamid.org or call (678) 264-8575.