Six years in the planning, Temple Shalom of Newton dedicated its brand-new sanctuary and social hall in a festive night of celebration.
With about 250 people attending the Celebrate our Renovation milestone event, the night was a community celebration of making the $3.2 million project at the largest Reform temple in Newton a reality. The evening was marked by affixing anew mezuzah to the doorpost of the Temple Street entrance by co-senior Rabbi Laura J. Abrasley.
Fellow co-senior Rabbi Allison Berry quoted the Talmud, “’Let them build for me a sanctuary so that no one will ever be on the outside.’ And so tonight, you, all of you, collectively have brought us inside to celebrate together this remarkable accomplishment…This is a space grounded in Jewish thought and history that is ready to welcome us as we celebrate our present and our future.”
“Building this new space is truly a community-wide effort,” said temple president Fred Kraus, adding, “All contributions in all forms were essential in getting to this place.”
“Individual commitment to a group effort is what made the renovation of our temple work,” said Sarah Abrams of the Building Task Force, which also included Jason Korb and Michael Grill.
Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller told the crowd, “I can’t imagine how much it took to get here today…It is a stunning renovation…they have transformed this into a congregation that would work for today and tomorrow.”
The project resulted in major facelifts to the sanctuary and social hall in a fast-paced, three-month project with Rosh Hashanah marking the temple’s first service in the new space.
“It was a massive undertaking with a three-month timeline that was daunting and had no space for error,” said Temple Shalom executive director Ellie Goldman. “We needed to push forward with unending progress no matter what.”
She underscored the importance of “creating a space for community together.”
The sanctuary now boasts a state-of-the-art sound system and lighting, a projection system and streaming with flexible seating for 300 people. A unique, colorful glass door ark was created by California artists David and Michelle Plache-Zuiebak for the sanctuary. The bima was replaced and made lower, resulting in greater intimacy and interaction between the congregation and those on the bima.
Rabbi Abrasley said congregants working on the project “dreamed of a bima that was accessible for everyone; a new sound system that everyone could hear and a place everyone could more comfortably enter.”
The social hall, which can hold 250 people, was renovated with improved lighting to forge a modern look. Both the sanctuary and social hall were repainted, brightening both rooms.
The temple’s street entrance was completely modernized with a glass exterior and an inviting foyer containing 18 inlays of Jerusalem stone, signifying the 12 tribes of Israel, the five books of the Bible and God.
Jo-Ann Suna, who headed the congregation’s Capital Campaign Committee for the project with Rob Berman, said the effort was part of “our new vision to create a spiritual home that is welcoming and engaging to all.”
Looking ahead to the growth of the Temple Shalom community, Rabbi Berry cited the importance of knowing “that this is a place where our lives will continue to unfold, where we will celebrate and hold each other and continue to live out lives of meaning and purpose filled with Jewish practice and Jewish love.”
After Rabbi Abrasley affixed the mezuzah and the congregation recited the blessing together, Rabbi Berry added that God “commanded us to dedicate and rededicate and celebrate with joy this beautiful makom kadosh, sacred space.”
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