Chief Rabbi David Lau, Mayor Eli Shaviro and other dignitaries attend ceremony marking the realization of Shvut Ariel’s potential as a hub for Jewish life in Ariel
On March 5, 2014, the Shvut Ariel Synagogue broke ground on the much-anticipated synagogue expansion in the presence of over 100 people of all ages, from Sephardic to Ashkenazi, from families with young children to seniors, from new immigrants to Israeli natives, from “traditional” to observant. Mayor Eliyahu Shaviro, Ariel CEO Avi Azar, Ariel Chief Rabbi Shalom Zadok, and other city officials were in attendance. Chief Rabbi David Lau blessed the initiative, which represents the realization of a long-time aspiration to grow to accommodate more of Ariel’s diverse population and to serve as a center for Jewish city life.
The Shvut Ariel Synagogue opened ten years ago, struggling to secure a minyan (quorum) for prayer. Ariel is a largely secular city, with about 15 percent of residents categorizing themselves as religiously observant, and Shvut Ariel is one of over a dozen of synagogues in Ariel. With an influx of Orthodox families from across the globe and its welcoming attitude to residents of all levels of observance, Shvut Ariel services have become standing-room only. The community has raised its own funds to begin necessary renovations on the first floor to enlarge the sanctuaries, expand seating to accommodate 400 people, and add auxiliary rooms for classes, Torah study, childcare, and a host of activities. A second floor is currently in planning stages.
“Overall, it was a very exciting time, and it was a great energy boost for the whole community,” said Elie Hochhauser, a board member of the synagogue who is leading expansion efforts. “This is the first step in our ability to provide a physical space, not just a space in our hearts, for all the people of Ariel.”