Renovations done in time for holidays

Rosh Hashana first major event in newly updated area synagogue

By Ryan Cornell

Renovations to the Beth El Congregation synagogue in Winchester are wrapping up just in time for the Jewish High Holy Days.

Rabbi Scott Sperling said the renovations, which began last fall, have added about 1,650 square feet of additional space to the three-story synagogue as well as American with Disabilities Act-compliant bathrooms and an elevator.

According to Sperling, the building located on Fairmont Avenue was dedicated in 1956.

“There was no Americans with Disabilities Act yet, so no thought was given; the only way out of the building was steps,” he said. “It was clear to us we had to provide for those with mobility issues.”

This is the first time work has been done on the building since an addition was constructed there in the early 1970s, he said.

Currently, Sperling said they’re tackling the final touches of the project — adding paper towel dispensers and bookcases, and replacing outlet covers — and anticipates being completely finished with the project in the next month.

“Folks are just delighted with the nice new wide open, light-filled space,” he said. “And I think a lot of folks are looking forward to taking advantage of the elevator.”

Although services have been held at Beth El Congregation since the end of July, this week’s Rosh Hashana services mark the first major event at the renovated synagogue.

The High Holy Days begin Wednesday evening with Rosh Hashana. The “head of the year” is the Jewish New Year and is a time when Jews make a close examination of their own actions and resolve to do better in the year to come, Sperling said.

He said there are seven services planned over the next 10 days, starting with a service at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Another service, called “Tashlich,” will be held on the Shenandoah University campus Thursday.

“It literally means ‘casting away,’ and the custom has been for hundreds and hundreds of years to symbolically stand by running water and cast away your sins and misdeeds from the previous year,” Sperling said.

He said people typically bring bread crumbs or lentils that they use to toss into the water.

Yom Kippur begins at sunset on Oct. 3, and the synagogue will host a solemn memorial service signaling the end of Yom Kippur at 5 p.m. Oct. 4.

Beth El Congregation is located at 520 Fairmont Ave. in Winchester. For more information, visit

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or