By Stacey Dresner
SPRINGFIELD – On Sunday, Feb. 10, members of Temple Beth El of Springfield gathered for a monumental event – the retirement of their mortgage and the groundbreaking of a renovation of their Cantor Morton Shames Sanctuary.
Temple Beth El broke ground for its Dickinson Street building in 1952. The original sanctuary and the redesign were designed by the noted mid-century architect Percival Goodman.
The congregation began its “Be the Future” campaign with the mission of renovating the sanctuary to become handicapped-accessible and flexible for multiple purposes. Through the vision of Harvard architect Preston Scott Cohen and with the guidance of local architect Steve Jablonski, the sanctuary will be refreshed with new seating that will face a center lectern, enhanced lighting and acoustics, and ramps for people of all abilities to access the bimah and the Torahs. Cohen’s design captures Goodman’s original concept of a people gathered in a tent, graced by holiness. The renovations will continue through the summer, and the Sanctuary Committee, led by Susan Weiss Firestone and Howard Smithline, anticipate that the project will be completed in time for the 2019 High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
The celebration also marked the payoff of the mortgage – a campaign goal that is seen as a legacy gift to future generations. This was a campaign goal of temple President David Ratner and Campaign Chair Michelle Anfang, who both emphasized fiscal responsibility for the future. The multigenerational group enjoyed a champagne toast in honor of this milestone. “It is thrilling to think that we have retired our mortgage and we have begun renovating our sanctuary. The future generations of TBE will be stronger because of our community’s vision and commitment,” remarked Rabbi Amy Wallk Katz.
CAP: Major donors to the campaign stand on the bimah covered in protective plastic with Rabbi Amy Wallk Katz and Sanctuary Committee Co-Chair Susan Weiss Firestone.