2017-06-07 / Local News

Temple Emanuel’s Emunah Initiative to enhance building and programs

By DAVID PORTNOE Voice Editor


A rendering of the planned refurbishment of Temple Emanuel’s sanctuary. The new sanctuary will feature a more intimate space with upper and lower bimahs that will allow the clergy to be closer to congregants sitting in the pews. A rendering of the planned refurbishment of Temple Emanuel’s sanctuary. The new sanctuary will feature a more intimate space with upper and lower bimahs that will allow the clergy to be closer to congregants sitting in the pews. Temple Emanuel in Cherry Hill has been in its building on the corner of Springdale and Kresson roads for 25 years, and according to synagogue leaders, the time has come for the 67- year-old congregation to upgrade its existing space.

“We’re strong. We’re doing this from a secure position,” said Rabbi Jerome P. David, senior rabbi at the Reform synagogue. He said that in 2017, the congregation lives in its building differently than it did 25 years ago. “In order to meet people’s needs, we need to make changes to our sacred spaces,” he said.

In order to accomplish its goals, Emanuel has launched the Emunah Initiative. Emunah, Hebrew for “faith,” consists of three goals—capital improvements and enhancements, program and technology innovation, and expansion of the synagogue’s endowment.

While all three goals are going on simultaneously, the first phase of the capital improvements will begin during the summer and will be completed by the start of school in the fall.

Changes to the sanctuary will include an upper and lower bimah, which will allow those officiating to be much closer to the congregation. Everything will be fully handicapped accessible. The lighting will be changed to create a more intimate atmosphere.

There will be new carpeting and a reading table that can be raised and lowered.

Michael Schorr, immediate past president, said that over the past 25 years, tens of thousands of people have come into the synagogue for services, events, and other activities. The building was showing its wear, and in need of upgrading. “We need to be there for future generations,” said Schorr, one of the prime movers behind the Emunah Initiative. He also said that although the building was built prior to the Americans with Disabilities Act, and was grandfathered, he said that it was time that the building, particularly the bimah, became fully handicapped accessible. “For somebody not to be able to stand in front of the Torahs because of a disability, was not something we could live with,” he said.

Other refurbishments include a renovation of the social hall, bathrooms, and a redesigned, more open entryway. A new Yizkor Room will allow for contemplation and will feature a very respectful way of commemorating the congregant’s loved ones.

“Those are the plans for this summer,” said Rabbi David. Other physical changes coming in the near future include a new entryway facing Springdale Road and a Solarium/Study Center within the current courtyard space. There will also be changes to the Youth Lounge, classes, meeting rooms, and a number of other features within the synagogue’s existing space.

“It’s been very exciting,” said Jessica Manelis, synagogue president. She said that she has seen a renewed energy among the congregants. “Things are really moving forward. We are ordering the seats for the sanctuary, new carpet and fabrics. People want to be involved,” she said. After 25 years, Manelis said that congregants are looking forward to new features in the building.

In addition to capital improvements, the Emunah Initiative will also focus on program and technology innovation and building the synagogue’s endowment. The Program & Technology Innovation Fund will support building technology, family programming, Holocaust and Israel education, outreach, music programming, as well as youth and senior programming. Growing the synagogue’s endowment fund (The Starlight Foundation) will support special needs programming, education scholarships, membership assistance funds, as well as both operational and technology endowments.

Rabbi David added that the Emunah Initiative has really engaged the entire congregation since it was launched over a year ago. He said that a rededication ceremony is planned for this Chanukah.

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