Thirty-five years after its humble beginnings in a converted tire store in Solana Beach, Congregation Beth Am has finally completed its Carmel Valley campus home. The renovation of the synagogue on Del Mar Heights Road took Beth Am from 11,000 square feet of modified portables to 21,000 square feet of new buildings to join the sanctuary and social hall that opened in 1999.
“The plan was always to have this campus, it just took a little longer than we thought,” said Rabbi David Kornberg. “We’re very pleased. It turned out even better than I imagined.…It’s a game changer for us, to do everything we wanted to do but were never able to.”
Beth Am hosted a busy Homecoming Weekend of festivities Dec. 8-10 to celebrate the campus completion, including a Campfire Shabbat (which they didn’t actually light because of the wildfires), a Saturday night gala with a ‘50s theme and a planting event in the garden on Sunday morning, in which families planted roots for generations to come. An official ribbon-cutting was held on Dec. 10 with proclamations from City Councilmember Barbara Bry and Congressman Scott Peters.
The campus is now composed of three new buildings: the Early Childhood Center, the Center for Jewish Life building and the Jewish Learning Center. Reflecting Beth Am’s goal of connecting people, the new buildings are linked by a long gallery corridor.
Inside the Center for Jewish Life building, the staff finally has the space to do all the things they need to do, Kornberg said.
Beth Am’s popular preschool and nursery are housed in the Early Childhood Center, with its own enclosed green play area, a small kitchen, library and reading room, and a garden where children will be able to grow and eat their own fruit and vegetables.
The Jewish Learning Center has nine classrooms in a variety of sizes for Hebrew school, including the youth lounge for teens with garage doors that roll up for their own outdoor space. The center also includes the Beit Midrash, which means “House of Study,” which has the capability to serve as large or small meeting rooms for programs, learning groups and services. The space is also home to an art installation of student-created tiles that spell out Beth Am in Hebrew.
The campus all comes together in a new central courtyard.
“This is my favorite part of the new campus,” Kornberg said of the outdoor Chodorow Family Courtyard that has become a hub of the congregation for gathering and worship services.
Kornberg said that the campus renovation would not have been possible without an $8.5 million capital campaign led by Jeff Lieber, Wayne Harris and Ingram Chodorow. Chodorow, a “visionary leader” for Beth Am passed away in February 2016 — It is because of his vision that we are here and we’ve committed to living out his vision in these buildings,” Kornberg said.
“The amazing generosity of the people continues to astound us. It shows the love and commitment to not only this community but to the Jewish future,” Kornberg said. “That is very heartwarming and gives me a lot of hope for the future.”
Congregation Beth Am is located at 5050 Del Mar Heights Road, San Diego, CA, 92130. Call (858) 481-8454 or visit betham.com.