AJ to Dedicate Renovated Building Aug. 24

by Phyllis Shaikun
Special to Community

The renovation of the building that has been Adath Jeshurun Synagogue’s home since 1957 personifies the adage, “The past we inherit; the future we create.” On Sunday, August 24, from 3-5 p.m., the community is invited to join with the congregation’s clergy, board and members for an afternoon of celebration marking the successful conclusion of this multi-year project. A dedication ceremony, tours of the building and refreshments are planned.

A vision for revitalizing the structure began in 2004, when congregational leaders considered various options for the future. The question of possible relocation became a topic for serious discussion and debate. After weighing all the possibilities, however, the decision was made to remain in the existing building and accept the monumental challenge of bringing it up to 21st-century standards.

To those who were intimately involved in the renovation process and those who are witnessing the results of their labors, the changes to the building have been phenomenal. The once dark interior, with its cinderblock walls and nondescript vinyl flooring, has been replaced by a soft taupe color scheme that reflects the warmly inviting and spiritually uplifting ambience sought in the entire renovation process.

Functionality was a key element in the redesign and thoughtful signage around the building (blessings in English, Hebrew and transliteration for putting on tallit, for instance, appear above the areas where they are stored) makes it accessible to all.

Gone is the old office area just beyond doors of the Woodbourne Avenue entrance, replaced by the new Louis and Lee Roth Family Board Room and reconfigured George and Miriam Blue Memorial Alcove with plaques bearing the names of family members who have passed on. To the left are doors leading to the David and Jonathan Blue Family Sanctuary, which is in itself a vision.

The bleached limestone front wall is reminiscent of Israel’s Western Wall, and the entire bima (altar) area evokes the feeling of God’s eternal presence. The impact is most significant in the colorful diachronic glass ark doors that artistically represent Jacob’s Ladder. The torah scrolls are dressed in colorful handmade covers symbolizing the five books of Moses. Artist Claude Riedel’s blown glass Ner Tamid offers light and meaning to the space while sculptor David Kocka’s large black menorah evokes feelings of solemnity and prayer.

Across the hall is the beautifully renovated Yarmuth Family Chapel. The bold ark doors bear the image of a golden burning bush and four stained-glass windows reaffirm the congregation’s core values of learning, performing deeds of loving kindness, remembering the past and carrying its lessons into the future – L’dor Vador – from generation to generation.

The new Melvin and Shellie Benovitz Library offers a cool, relaxing place to meet, watch TV, read a book or have something to eat in the serving area. The room shares a common wall with the chapel and is often used to hold services and other activities.

Continuing down the hallway through the new Weisberg Family Entrance is the show-stopping “Wow! Wall,” so named because that’s the unmistakable reaction when you see it. The wall’s large, colorful panels were actually created California artist Isaac Brynjegard-Bialik from comic book images and the entire work is woven together with a series of white latticework strips. The effect is both surprising and stunning.

Four glass doors across from the Wow! Wall lead to the parking area. A large concrete portico with three embedded glass Stars of David stands above the curved driveway/walkway area providing protection from the weather and a spiritual element as well. The view from the doorway looking onto the Blue Family Garden is exquisite. Trees have been moved to give an unencumbered view of the award-winning garden’s lush plantings, benches and statuary.
Continuing down the hall on the right is the gift shop followed by the new Britt and Paula Brockman Main Office suites that have been created on both sides of the hall. According to Adath Jeshurun’s rabbi, Robert Slosberg, space planner Beth Brown has been instrumental in the renovation process. She visualized work spaces where none had existed before, which enabled the synagogue to use every inch of space in the building to its best advantage.
The synagogue’s small auditorium has been renamed the Rabbi Robert B. Slosberg Event Center. In addition to offering seating for intergenerational High Holy Day services, the smartly detailed event center is a favorite venue for meetings, programs and celebrations.

The colorful tapestry that had adorned the ark since 1957 was framed and hung in the event center to serve as a reminder of the past in a lovingly recreated structure poised and ready to uplift and inspire future generations.

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