New Year and new spaces greet Har Shalom congregants

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Congregation Har Shalom’s social hall is part of a $3.5 million renovation to the 1970s-era building. Photo courtesy of Congregation Har Shalom
Congregation Har Shalom’s social hall is part of a $3.5 million renovation to the 1970s-era building.
Photo courtesy of Congregation Har Shalom

Congregation Har Shalom in Potomac welcomed 5777 with the sweet taste of apples and honey, and the sight of a newly renovated building with considerably more space than before.

Congregants attending Rosh Hashanah services had a chance to see the new $3.5 million renovations of the 1970s-era building, including expanded social hall, a ceiling in the entrance area twice as high as before and more windows to allow natural light into the building.


“It was just time,” said executive director Shelley Engel. “This building was old and outdated, so we updated all of our systems and brought us into this century and opened it to make it more
welcoming.”

The renovations took six months, Engel said, although its completion on the eve of Rosh Hashanah was purely coincidental. It includes signs in English, Hebrew and Braille as well as a gender-neutral restroom.

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The synagogue also contains a newer wing that includes the sanctuary. Rabbi Adam Raskin said before the renovations, walking between the old and new wings was like “stepping into a time machine.”

“It’s like you’ve [gone] back to the 1970s,” he said. “That side was all modern and beautiful and bright, and this side was dark, dingy and industrial.”


Not anymore. In addition to the makeover, Har Shalom has introduced something new: couches scattered throughout the building. There’s also a hospitality suite that is set up with library books and an area for snacks and drinks. The women’s restroom now has a vanity area that, Engel jokes, resembles a Nordstrom powder room.

“We really wanted to make the shul a home away from home, and so we tried to include all of the amenities that would make you feel comfortable dwelling here and building community here,” Raskin said. “We tried to accomplish a beautiful physical space without going over budget.”

Engel said the synagogue is already
receiving booking requests from members to celebrate simchas in the updated space.

The one element of the building that has yet to be completed is a courtyard that will have seating and lighting for nighttime events.

The building will be dedicated on Dec. 10.

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