Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Congregation Bet Chaim ready for a bright future through 'perfect union'


Congregation Bet Chaim's building, now shared with the Spanish Seventh Day Adventist Church.

Casselberry's reform Congregation Bet Chaim (CBC), the first in Seminole County to build its own facility, has forged a one-of-a kind relationship with the Longwood (now Casselberry) Spanish Seventh Day Adventist Church, with a sale/lease arrangement that will fortify the temple's longevity and growth.

The congregation, which celebrates its 24th anniversary this week, sold the approximately 3,000 square foot building and two acre lakefront lot that they have occupied since 2005 to the Adventist congregation, who have been renting a space and searching for the perfect new home. CBC's service to its members and to the community won't change-they now rent the building and continue to hold Friday night Shabbat services, Sunday religious school, and all Jewish holidays with no interruption or change in schedule.

Both organizations consider the property a shared home of worship and look forward to a long, beneficial relationship. Commonalities in food laws (neither religion consumes pork or shellfish) make sharing the kitchen a nonissue-and a spirit of cooperation and mutual respect has made the transition smooth. All of Bet Chaim's objects of worship, from the Torah table to the Ark, remain in the sanctuary, and the new owners will make sure the temple's Eternal Light is always lit.

Now free from the financial burden of a mortgage and building maintenance, Congregation Bet Chaim will focus on growing their membership, social events, community engagement, and promoting their tiny gem of a temple. "We want everybody in Central Florida to know we are here and ready for a bright future," said Diane Zoock, president of CBC.

The combination of temples, churches and mosques sharing one building is a trend that is growing across the country and the world, as religious groups try to stay afloat in difficult economies. The House of One in Berlin, the Pelham Jewish Center in Westchester, N.Y., and Congregation B'nai Jeshurun in Manhattan are just a few examples.

CBC's Shabbat services are held every Friday night at 8 p.m. and conducted twice a month by Rabbi Sanford Olshansky, who is frequently accompanied by Cantorial Soloist Jillian Marini, a classically trained opera singer. Shabbat dinners and guest lecturers are often scheduled.

For more information visit their website at http://www.betchaim.org, join their Facebook page, or call 407-830-7211.


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