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Our synagogue was built in 1959 for a congregation with a rabbi and cantor, a choir, and a formal, hierarchical style of services. In 2022 we need a sanctuary that reflects our 21st-century values of warmth, inclusiveness, egalitarianism, and spiritual intimacy.
The overarching goals of the redesign are to make our sanctuary:
Rabbi Eric Woodward and synagogue president Yaron Lew have enthusiastically endorsed the project. You can read Rabbi Eric’s message here and Yaron’s message here.
The shape of the sanctuary will stay the same. The ark will remain on the west side of the sanctuary: unfortunately, it is not feasible to relocate it.
Currently, the sanctuary’s HVAC system needs repair. The seats are literally falling apart, and their design and layout provide poor accessibility. The divider between the sanctuary and the social hall needs to be replaced. The redesign will address all of these critical areas as well as others.
No. The conceptual design will be a total presentation of the redesign. A budget estimate ballpark will be developed for each major component of the project. Based on funds available and the priority of each component, we will decide what can be done now or deferred to a later time. Lowering the bimah and ark is a top priority. It does not appear to be too hard to do but we will wait to decide until we see the designs.
Of course! The sanctuary redesign committee held a congregation-wide Zoom meeting in December 2021. We will post designs on the website as they progress. Feedback is welcome, which may result in changes to the design. We may hold another congregational meeting after the architect delivers one or more conceptual design proposals in March.
The survey got a great response from 183 people, 95 percent of whom are BEKI members. The redesign committee thanks everyone who responded.
The results help identify major priorities for the sanctuary redesign. Those priorities include:
These survey findings dovetail with BEKI’s values and the redesign committee’s mission statement.
Accessibility supports BEKI’s egalitarian and inclusive values. The redesign committee will consider accessibility and inclusivity in every aspect of the sanctuary’s design and function.
Changing from our current hierarchical, audience-style seating arrangement (facing a stage in front) to a more inclusive layout will better fit our participatory, member-led services.
Acoustical improvements will also promote inclusivity, accessibility, and the participatory nature of our services.
For climate control and air quality, part of the committee’s charge is to determine what HVAC improvements are needed in the sanctuary and to incorporate those changes into the redesign. The upgrades should bring less noise (thereby improving acoustics), better air quality, and improved energy efficiency— potentially reducing BEKI’s carbon footprint and operating costs.
Replacing the single-pane sanctuary windows with energy-efficient glass will offer many design possibilities for increasing natural light and beautifying the room.
Other themes, including financial questions, emerged in response to the open questions at the end of the survey.
More detail on the survey results is available here.
The architect began proposing ideas in December 2021 and submitted preliminary sketches of the room layout in January 2022. The committee expects quick progress. We have asked the architect to complete one or more conceptual designs by mid-March 2022.
We don’t know yet. The redesign committee hopes to recommend a conceptual design to the Board of Directors in the spring. When the Board signs off and we get an idea of available funds, we will proceed with more detailed plans and we interview and hire a construction firm. The construction schedule will depend on the final scope of the project and the available budget.
No. We will develop a conceptual plan that covers the full redesign. We will get several design options from the architect. Once one is selected, we can determine if we can afford to do the whole project or parts of it. We hope the design will be spectacular and irresistible, which will make funds available and enable us to do the whole redesign.
After interviewing four architecture firms — all recommended by BEKI members — we chose Building Studio Architects because of the connection the committee felt when meeting its founding partner, Michael Goldblum. Michael and his firm have worked on many synagogues and Jewish schools as well as commercial and residential projects. As an active shul-goer in Riverdale, New York, Michael understands synagogue life and what Jewish congregations look for in a sanctuary. Raised in Stamford, he has attended services at BEKI. The firm is based in New York City, but Michael has worked on several projects in Connecticut, including a historic restoration of the Washington Building, at 39 Church Street in downtown New Haven.
The Sanctuary Redesign Committee was given a budget range of $1 million to $1.25 million. That is an all-inclusive number that includes any modifications necessary to the heating, cooling, and ventilation in the sanctuary. It covers the project construction, architect fees, permits, engineers, and anything else related to the sanctuary redesign.
The Board of Directors will ultimately decide on funding for the sanctuary redesign. BEKI President Yaron Lew has identified several possible sources:
The Finance Committee will examine all the options and make recommendations to the Board. How much will come from each source will depend on the success of our grant-writing and fundraising efforts.
A Sanctuary Redesign Fundraising Committee has been formed and is developing a comprehensive plan to raise the necessary funds. The plan will be reviewed and approved by the BEKI Executive Committee and Board before fundraising volunteers reach out to the BEKI community. The committee expects that actual fundraising will begin sometime in March. Committee members include Murray Akresh, Mark Oppenheimer, Jessey Palumbo, John Wareck, and John Weiser. President Yaron Lew will also be actively involved in our fundraising efforts. Please reach out to a committee member or Yaron if you would like to begin any preliminary discussions about sanctuary redesign pledges, or contact the BEKI office to make a donation.