On Sunday, August 24, Congregation Adath Jeshurun celebrated the completion of its renovation and revitalization process. But a day earlier, it paused to celebrate the memory of loved ones lost to war.
On Saturday, August 23, a plaque in memory of AJ’s fallen servicemen was dedicated. Family members of each of the deceased spoke at the dedication and a display of photographs and memorabilia added insight and context to the dedication ceremony.
It was fitting that as the AJ family looked forward to using its lovely new spiritual home, it also looked back to those members who gave their all in service to our country.
The building renovation project, from conception to fundraising to architectural drawings to construction, took at least 10 years. One could stretch it to 13 with a little imagination, and Sunday night’s celebration had the look and feel of a bar or bat mitzvah.
The David & Jonathan Blue Family sanctuary was nearly full. There were yarmulkes available in a variety of bright colors with the inscription “Adath Jeshurun Building Dedication August 24, 2014.” That same inscription was on the colorful napkins stacked on the refreshment tables in the Charles & Jean K. Erskine Auditorium. It was a festive afternoon, celebrating the culmination of years of work by dozens of people – suppliers, volunteers, staff, contractors and others.
Rabbi Robert Slosberg and President Arnold Zegart spoke; Cantor Lipp and the AJ choir sang; and three past presidents detailed the history of the project, including raising money through the Great Recession, pausing for studies on whether to relocate rather than renovate, and an unsuccessful half-year-long dalliance with merger with another synagogue.
Two stark facts called out for attention: First, the renovation-revitalization was achieved without incurring one cent of debt. Second, the synagogue continued in operation throughout the entire project: Something like redesigning an airplane while it is flying.
Art was a major theme of the celebration, and there were docents available to highlight and explain much of the eloquent artwork. First and perhaps foremost was the “Wow Wall” located directly across from the splendid, new Weisberg Family Entrance. Facing the Blue Rose Garden, the Wow Wall is a series of five graphic panels depicting various themes in contemporary Jewish worship.
Located on doorways throughout the building are nineteen handmade mezuzot dedicated by member donors. In the David & Jonathan Blue Family Sanctuary, the main sanctuary, there are new ark doors, a new solar-powered ner tamid (eternal light) and an imposing new menorah, all complementing the stained glass windows from the original 1957 construction. Newly-designed Torah covers enhance both the main sanctuary and Yarmuth Family Chapel. You will also find new ark doors and stained glass windows in the chapel.
Located in the Rabbi Robert B. Slosberg Event Center is the Sisterhood Tapestry as well as a newly repurposed Jacob’s Ladder Ark Tapestry, which served for many years as the ark door covering in the main sanctuary.
Located in the Bert & Elaine Klein Waiting Area are two Chagall Lithographs, and in the hallway next to the Harold & Frankye Gordon Family Gift Shop is the Holocaust Memorial Tapestry. To complete the administrative wing is a newly designed Creation Window depicting the six days in which God created the heavens and the earth, centered around Shabbat.
Congregation Adath Jeshurun congregation dates back to 1851. In 1919, it dedicated the building at Brook and College where the congregation stayed until moving to its current site on Woodbourne Avenue in 1957. A religious school addition (the J. J. Gittleman Education Center) was added in 1966.
With the current renovation and revitalization, Rabbi Robert Slosberg believes that AJ is in a wonderful position to provide a beautiful home to the spiritual and congregational needs of present and future generations.