Owings Mills Torah Center finds a new home … in my house

Babka, Shira Kramer’s dog, sits on a couch next to Owings Mills Torah Center’s ark.
Babka, Shira Kramer’s dog, sits on a couch next to Owings Mills Torah Center’s ark.

I did not anticipate a day that movers would enter my home carrying a Torah and an ark.
As much as I have missed going to synagogue this past year, I was also not jumping at the chance to wake up at 9 a.m. on Saturday mornings to the sounds of Shacharit. However, one month later, I could not be happier that the Owings Mills Torah Center has found a temporary home in my house.

Like most things, synagogues took a hard hit during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As these places of worship closed or moved outdoors, synagogues like OMTC struggled with one question: Should they keep paying rent on a space that had been empty for months, or should they accept defeat and close their synagogue?

To Rabbi Aaron Tendler, neither of these options seemed ideal.

Tendler founded OMTC 18 years ago in order to reach the Jewish people in the area who might feel uncomfortable going to Ner Israel for services but still wanted the opportunity to walk to an Orthodox synagogue. With the help of Rabbi Jason Gelber, their dream became
a reality.

In addition to his work with OMTC, Tendler teaches and acts as the guidance counselor for Ner Israel’s Israel Henry Beren High School. He is also the vice president of the Foundation for the Preservation and the Perpetuation of Torah Laws and Customs, a foundation that produces Cholov Yisroel milk nationwide. His ice cream brand, Pride of the Farm, is a favorite at OMTC weekly kiddush.

OMTC closed because of the pandemic on March 16, 2020. It remained closed for 14-and-a-half months.

Tendler didn’t want to close down a synagogue that has helped dozens of Jews grow closer to Judaism. However, continuously losing money was not an acceptable plan either.

“I missed the stimulating community interaction and the discussions that we had,” Tendler said of the time when services were put on hold. “However, I welcomed the opportunity for everybody to realize that true connection with Hashem should be personal and can be done anytime, anywhere, by anyone.”

As the community searched for answers, my mom and stepdad, Denia Kramer and Yossi Benor of Pikesville, came up with a solution. Our home, just a five-minute walk from the original synagogue location, could be the new temporary home of OMTC.

“When we bought this house five years ago, we knew God had special plans for it,” Kramer said. “We just had no idea it would be this.”

A unique aspect of this synagogue that Tendler finds particularly exciting is the addition of my dog, Babka. Not many Orthodox synagogues admit pets as members, but for Tendler, Babka is really the one accepting us into his home for services.

“He is more than welcome,” Tendler said. “As a matter of fact, we are encroaching on
his territory.”

OMTC’s original and current mission is to show Jewish people that Shabbat services should be personal and special, Tendler said.

While OMTC’s services have reopened in the house, fears of COVID-19 have made certain committed members hesitant to return.

We do not know what the future holds for the location of OMTC services or the future of our shul, but one thing is for sure: As long as we live in Babette Court, you are all welcome in our home.

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