Beth El Set to Expand

Mother Nature may have dusted the area with the season's first coating of snow, but the members of Congregation Beth El in Yardley pressed forward with the job at hand: breaking ground for expansion.

As part of the second phase of its renovation, the synagogue hosted a ceremonial groundbreaking for its new social hall and sanctuary. The addition will feature an expanded kitchen and a bigger lobby.

Randall Flager, co-president of the Conservative shul, said that the current facilities are inadequate for the growing congregation, which now numbers some 253 families.

Beth El's original building was constructed in 1997, and includes a school wing, administrative offices and a small multipurpose sanctuary.

"We've been renting a local school for the High Holidays," said Flager. "We're grateful to them, but it's just not the same feeling as praying in your own consecrated space."

Flager said he expects construction of the 10,000-square-foot addition to begin early next year; congregants are hoping to observe the 2007 High Holidays in the new building. Flager estimated that the current phase will cost about $2.5 million.

In addition to the nearly 400 congregants and community members who were on hand for the Dec. 4 ceremony, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell attended, along with U.S. Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick (R-District 8) and state Reps. Joe Conti (R-District 10), David Steil (R-District 31) and Anthony Melio (D-District 141).

According to Rabbi Jeff Pivo, the congregation's leader, just two years ago, membership hovered at about 200 families.

He now expects to have more than 300 families within the next two years.

"Our membership is growing rapidly, and we need to keep up," explained Flager. "Soon, we can all daven together for High Holidays, as well as celebrate milestone events, and the happy and sad occasions of life all together."



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