The congregation of Main Line Reform Temple, Beth Elohim learned a crucial lesson during the course of its $8.5 million renovation project: Sometimes, small projects can grow. And grow. And grow.
"We ended up actually renovating the entire facility in one way or another," explained Rabbi David Straus.
What started out as a project much smaller in scope eventually touched nearly every surface in the synagogue, from wall coverings to windows, noted the rabbi.
One of the major changes to the building was its handicap accessibility. Now there are no stairs into the building — only ramps. There are also a raised driveway, an elevator and a ramp to the bimah in the main sanctuary, so that everyone can participate in services and simchas, like weddings, and Bar and Bat Mitzvahs ceremonies.
"We also ended up touching the surfaces of all of the rest of the building that weren't new," said Straus. The building received a full sprinkler system and new wall coverings, fresh coats of paint and new windows.
After 13 months of work, the renovated facility was dedicated in March. This will be the first High Holidays to showcase the contemporary features.
While the major work has been completed, minor touch-ups remain. For example, some handrails need to be installed.
It's partly a function of finally being at home and realizing the little things you've forgotten, acknowledged Straus.
During the renovation period, Main Line Reform held services in Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church. "For me, personally, as a rabbi, it was a phenomenal experience," relayed Straus. "An important and, I think, ongoing relationship" developed between the groups.
"Certainly, one of the things we clearly learned about is what hospitality is really all about, and how to welcome other people," said Straus.
While the partnership did succeed, congregants seem happy to return back home.
"People are very excited about being in a new facility," said the rabbi. "There's a really exciting buzz going on, both within the community and certainly within the congregation."