Congregation Beth El–Keser Israel

85 Harrison Street, New Haven, CT 06515-1724 | P: 203.389.2108 |

Our banner is based on BEKI’s stained glass, designed in 2008 by Cynthia Beth Rubin. For information on this and other of Cynthia’s work, go to: <a href="" target="_blank"></a>. Artisan Fabrication by JC Glass of Branford, CT

Frequently Asked Questions

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Click questions you’re interested in.

Why change our sanctuary?

Our synagogue was built in 1959 for a congregation with a rabbi and cantor, a choir, and a formal, hierarchical style of worship. We want to create a sanctuary that reflects our 21st-century values of warmth, inclusiveness, and spiritual intimacy, and that enhances our volunteer-led services in which we are all participants, not audience members.

The overarching goals involve making our sanctuary:

  • more physically comfortable (which includes heating, cooling, ventilation, and seating);
  • more accessible for people with disabilities;
  • more intimate in scale and layout;
  • a warmer environment, more inviting to everyone.
What will the project cover? What will change and what will stay the same?

Yaron’s message in July outlined several components:

  • covering the sanctuary’s cinder block columns with a more appealing finish;
  • rearranging the seats from front-facing rows to a more center-facing layout;
  • making the bimah (stage) accessible for people with mobility challenges;
  • replacing, in some fashion, the folding divider between the main sanctuary and the social hall;
  • and addressing, in some fashion, the sanctuary ceiling.
Who is on the committee?

Our team is:

Carole Bass, co-chair

Lynn Brotman

Eric Dunsker, board liaison and House Committee chair

Jonathan Gordon

Howard Gralla

Marga Hirsch

Rick Saltz, co-chair

Lynn and Jonathan are interior designers. Eric has deep knowledge of BEKI’s facilities. Rick supervised many design and construction projects in his professional life. Others of us bring expertise in how synagogue services work, in general and at BEKI; organizational skills; and long-time relationships with many BEKI members. All of us are excited about helping to create a worship space that reflects and enhances our community.

What will the redesign committee do?

We will:

  • Review previous plans and ideas for redesigning the BEKI sanctuary.
  • Research other congregations that have undertaken similar projects.
  • Present information and ideas to the BEKI community, and gather feedback.
  • Synthesize that feedback and produce several possible designs.
  • Bring those designs to the congregation and incorporate additional feedback.
  • Provide consistent updates.
  • Produce a design that has the support of the congregation and Board of Directors and is ready to implement.

We will work with the guidance of Rabbi Woodward, Yaron, and the BEKI board. Construction will be a separate phase of the project. Some members of this committee will work on that phase; some may not. Other BEKI volunteers will be responsible for fundraising.

Do BEKI members get a say in the redesign?

Of course! We’ll hold congregation-wide meetings, on Zoom and in person, to present some initial ideas. As mentioned above, we’ll incorporate that feedback into one or more proposed designs, then get more feedback from BEKI members.

When will we have a design that’s ready to go?

We’re developing a timeline now. We have told the architect that the conceptual design has to be completed by mid-March 2022.  A lot of that depends on how quickly we can respond to their questions and design ideas. You’ll be hearing from us all along the way!

What will it cost, and how will BEKI pay for it?

It’s too soon to project the cost. The BEKI board will make the ultimate decisions on design, budget, and financing.

The 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 related to the sanctuary redesign.

Based on funds available and the priority of the component, we will decide what can be done now or deferred to a later time.  Lowering the bimah and ark is a top priority according to the committee.

Has a construction company been hired?

No - only the architect has been hired.  Once we get an idea of available funds and proceed with more detailed plans, we will interview and hire a construction firm.  It is important that the construction firm be part of the final design and plan development process.