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Synagogue’s proposed expansion clears planning board
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Congregation Beth Israel Rabbi Levi Mentz speaks Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020, during an event to unveil plans for a new synagogue campus. - photo by Ben Hendren

A major expansion for the Chabad of Forsyth has cleared the planning Forsyth County Planning Board and is headed to the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners for a final decision.  

At a recent meeting, board members voted unanimously to recommend approval of a conditional-use permit to expand and operate a place of worship, a parochial school and a daycare center in buildings totaling 60,650 square feet with 90 total parking spaces on 9.99 acres at 785 and 795 Brannon Road. 

“Essentially, a synagogue is a place that anchors our highest ideals,” said Rabbi Levi Mentz, “and at a time when the world is shaking and there is so much up and down, I think the greatest blessing we can give our county is another space that is committed to the things which we cherish most: love and happiness and education and sharing light to the entire community.” 

Mentz said the date of the meeting was on the fifth day of Elul in the Hebrew calendar and had a special meaning.  

“The prophet Ezekiel, in the year 428 BCE gives prophecy today on the fifth of Elul… he says that the Jewish people will be taken out of Israel, Jerusalem will be destroyed, together with the holy temple,” Mentz said. “But he says, ‘But when you go to the diaspora, know that God has blessed the building of synagogues… that in the diaspora where you go, you will be blessed to build houses of worship, sanctuaries, synagogues where you will be able to anchor your highest ideals, and with that, inspire your families, communities and one day be able to return to the holy land of Israel. 

He said along with the date, it was unbelievable and humbling that a synagogue would be built in Forsyth County, “where that prophecy was never fulfilled.” 

Earlier this year, Congregation Beth Israel and Chabad of Forsyth hosted an event to debut plans for the facility, which will replace the existing Congregation Beth Israel building at 795 Brannon Road and is expected to cost about $4.7 million, which will be raised by the congregation. 

Congregation Beth Israel came together in 2016 with members meeting in a local business and, in 2017, opened the current synagogue, the first in Forsyth County. 

Plans for the proposed project include a café, 2,000 square feet for offices, an 8,000-square-foot school/daycare, a 6,000-square-foot social hall, 5,000 square feet for a sanctuary and a 29,000 square foot synagogue for Chabad of Forsyth. 

Bob Meyer, who lives in the nearby Woodland Park subdivision, said the community has been a great neighbor and the plan would keep the residential feel of the area. 

Jennifer Hurst, a member of Congregation Beth Israel, said a residential area is key for families, like hers, who are moving to the area to be near the synagogue.   

“It’s important that it’s in a residential area,” she said. “There will be many others that are part of the Orthodox community, that need to be shomer Shabbos, being within a mile away to walk to the synagogue.” 

Responding to questions from the planning board, Mentz said the busiest service of the year was Yom Kippur, which will begin this year on the evening of Sunday, Sept. 27, with about 200 attendees. 

He said he was willing to work with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office for any services or meetings that would have an impact on traffic on Brannon Road.