After over five years of planning and preparation, Ohev Shalom is now set to build its Irv and Elaine Levin Building. The new construction will expand the lobby area to form a larger and grander entryway; renovate the social hall, sanctuary and restrooms; and add the Adath Tikvah-Montefiore Chapel to the overall structure.
The chapel is named after the Northeast Philadelphia congregation that merged with Ohev Shalom in 2003.
Construction will begin in April and continue through November, while indoor renovations will start in June and continue through August.
"It's taken us 31 years to get to this point," said congregation president Arlene Rosenbaum. She sees this new expansion as the "completion of the synagogue campus."
The Kesher Campaign, chaired by Rosenbaum, Hal Barrow, and Heidi and Jeff Gordon, began with the goals of eliminating the congregation's short-term debt, refurbishing the building, then expanding the synagogue. With the first two goals achieved, the campus will now grow, thanks to the financial stability provided by the Levins.
The 700-member congregation showed its commitment to one another with the initiation of a family quilt project prior to the groundbreaking. Using a design template, mothers, fathers and children colored in 8-inch squares of white cloth, each containing its own special touch. These individual squares will eventually be stitched together into a massive quilt, which, according to Rabbi Eliott N. Perlstein, will demonstrate how the families of the congregation are tied together. The quilt will then be the centerpiece of the synagogue's grand lobby.
The new chapel will be used for minyans, small weddings and classes, and the new lobby will serve as a pre-function space and a more inviting entranceway into the congregation.
The groundbreaking also included the creation of a time capsule that was filled with historic items, newsletters, the synagogue's 25th-anniversary journal and personal messages from families. The capsule will be buried at the dedication ceremony in the spring, at the start of construction.
At the groundbreaking, Perlstein noted that the week's Torah portion was particularly relevant for this special day: In the parashah, God told the Jewish people, "Make for me a sanctuary, and I will dwell in your midst."
"It's wonderful to see that it's finally getting started," said Irv Levin, adding that he and his wife feel overjoyed that the memory of Adath Tikvah-Montefiore — their former congregation — is being preserved.
"We're really building all of the dimensions of what a synagogue should be about," added the rabbi. "This will be a place where we will come together to pray, to learn and to celebrate together."