Beth El thanks Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church and returns to Watts Street
by: Josh Factor
Durham Conservative Synagogue Beth El, constructed in 1955, has been planning on renovating since 2014. In January of 2018 the Synagogue community; it’s symbols, Torahs, and congregation relocated to Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church while renovations at the Watts Street building commenced.
Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church could not have been more gracious or welcoming, even allowing a Mezuzah to be placed on the building’s doorposts.
Last Sunday, the Jewish and Presbyterian communities came together to mark a new era for Beth El as the congregation prepared to move back to the renovated building after almost a year and a half.
Beth El’s Rabbi Greyber said “It was an extraordinary moment for our communities and in a troubled world, it was a reminder of what’s good and what’s possible.”
The relocation celebration and marching of the Torahs back across the blocks to Beth El kicked off with the members of Beth El singing joyously in church’s fellowship hall and welcoming the Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church congregation.
Gradually, the two congregations made their way down to the church’s lobby where their respective leaders reflected on their year together and where they hope to go in their future. Rabbi Greyber expressed his gratitude for the graciously shared facilities and many accommodations. Associate Pastor Tommy Grimm thanked the Beth El community for teaching their members about Jewish culture, customs, and traditions.
Rabbi Greyber and Pastor Grimm led the procession of more than 100 out into the streets and the singing began once again.
Upon arrival at 1008 Watts Street, where construction continues to be completed, the two communities were able to bask in the glow of the transformation. The new features of the building include an Ark for holding Beth El’s Torahs that is facing in the traditional direction (east), an expanded social hall complete with a newly-built terrace, a new elevator, gender-neutral bathrooms, a new playground, and a prayer garden (to be completed). The downstairs area (where the Orthodox services are held) is also still unfinished, but scheduled to be complete by the end of September.
After the procession finished, the celebrants placed the Torahs back into the Ark and then the two congregations gathered together in the brand-new Beth El social hall to break bread in fellowship.
The Jewish community left thank-you notes to the members of Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church for their warm and generous hospitality.
During their speeches, both leaders made it clear that, though they would now be worshipping in different spaces again, they knew it would not be the end of the relationship between the two communities.