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The Journal Gazette

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette The Madge Rothschild Resource Center held its grand opening Sunday at the Congregation Achduth Vesholom's Rifkin Campus in Fort Wayne.

  • Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette Rabbi Lenny Sarko adjusts the Torah to the Book of Exodus during Sunday’s grand opening of the Madge Rothschild Resource Center at the Congregation Achduth Vesholom’s Rifkin Campus in Fort Wayne.

Monday, May 01, 2017 1:00 am

Jewish center 'a long time coming'

Visitors praise during tours

Focus is to educatecommunity withflexible class space

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

With her 1-year-old son in her arms and her husband at her side, Mindy Esparza toured the Madge Rothschild Resource Center for its grand opening celebration Sunday, as did other community members, both Jewish and non-Jewish.

The space is on the Rifkin Campus of Congregation Achduth Vesholom, the oldest Jewish congregation in Indiana.

Esparza, an administrative assistant for the temple, said it's great to see the 3,150-square-foot addition in its complete form.

“It's been a long time coming,” she said.

The center – which includes the Rabbi Richard B. Safran Library and the Jacob L. Goldman Memorial Museum – focuses on the Jewish experience in northeast Indiana and Holocaust education. It also has flexible space to accommodate meetings and classes of different sizes.

Esparza described it as “one big step” toward educating the community on Judaism. Many people don't even know the temple, 5200 Old Mill Road, exists, she said.

Sunday's celebration piqued Stephanie Petras' interest after reading about it in the newspaper, so she and her husband decided to stop by.

“We were just curious,” the Fort Wayne woman said, adding she didn't realize the city had a big Jewish community. “It's fun to learn new things.”

The couple participated in one of three tours offered during the open house. Congregation member Mike Rush led the activity, which addressed the sanctuary, outdoor Holocaust memorial and the congregation's history.

“Our name means unity and peace,” Rush said.

Founded in 1848 by German immigrants, Congregation Achduth Vesholom is the second oldest congregation west of the Allegheny Mountains, he said.

Rush pointed out elements in the sanctuary, including the Torahs. One belonged to the congregation's original members, he said.

Another is known as the Holocaust Torah because it contains a fragment of a scroll rescued from the Nazis, he said, noting that Torah is often used in bar and bat mitzvahs.

Nine stained-glass windows are another prominent feature in the sanctuary and tell the story of the Jewish people, Rush said.

Back in the new resource center, Esparza showed her husband the library's book return, which is painted to look like the mouth of a monkey hanging upside down.

Jay Esparza said they can bring their son, Broderick, to the library and read him Jewish children's books.

“I hope everyone in the community comes out and sees what this place has to offer,” he said.