Groundbreaking ceremonies are scheduled tomorrow for a synagogue in Sylvania and a major addition to a Sylvania Township church, while a modern prayer chapel modeled after an ancient biblical tabernacle just opened in Bowling Green.
The sound of up to a dozen shofars, or ram s horns, will herald the start of tomorrow s ceremony when members of Congregation B nai Israel turn the soil at 10 a.m. for their new synagogue, to be built on the campus of the United Jewish Council, the Jewish Community Center, and the Stone Hebrew Academy in Sylvania. The groundbreaking event will include earth from the congregation s past, present, and future locations mixed with soil from Jerusalem.
Westgate Chapel, on Wilford Drive in Sylvania Township, also plans a 10 a.m. ceremony for a $5 million, 25,000-square-foot addition to its facility.
Dayspring Assembly of God last weekend dedicated a $375,000 prayer chapel that features a modern-looking building whose design was based on the detailed instructions the Lord gave Moses for a tabernacle, as described in the biblical book of Exodus.
B nai Israel, the oldest Jewish congregation in the Toledo area, was organized in the late 1860s, moved into a wood-frame building on East Woodruff Avenue in 1888, and moved to North 12th Street and East Bancroft Street in 1914.
The synagogue relocated to Kenwood Boulevard in Toledo s Old Orchard neighborhood 1955. It sold the Kenwood Boulevard property to the University of Toledo Foundation in April, 2004, for $1.75 million.
It s been a long journey for us, said Cantor James Gloth. They talked about doing something years and years ago. The current building is very large, it s a wonderful building, but it s 50 years old and costs a lot of money to keep up. Not only is Toledo s population shrinking, but the Jewish population in Toledo is shrinking. Most Jews don t live near where B nai Israel is, but are moving westward. With that in mind, a decision was made a few years ago to build a new building rather than renovate this one.
The new synagogue, costing approximately $3.5 million, will have about 19,700 square feet of space, according to Abraham Musher-Eizenman, architect and a member of B nai Israel.
The new sanctuary will have a lot of flexibility to meet the needs of the congregation, Mr. Musher-Eizenmann said from Paris, where he is on a one-year sabbatical from his faculty position at Bowling Green State University.
As far as religious spaces go, it s a very intimate space. The existing synagogue is about 45,000 square feet, so this one is considerably smaller, Mr. Musher-Eizenmann said.
With some partition walls and moveable pews, the seating in the sanctuary can be adjusted to accommodate anywhere from 60 to 600 people, he said. For most of the year, the sanctuary will be set up so that it can seat about 200.
One of the challenges of this project, and one that makes it interesting, is that it will be used in many different ways at different times of the year for different lifecycle events, Mr. Musher-Eizenmann said. I had to design a space that would be transformable for different needs.
A Conservative Jewish congregation, the new B nai Israel will be just a short walk from the Temple-Congregation Shomer Emunim, a Reform congregation.
Cantor Gloth of B nai Israel said that at first he was reluctant about plans to move to a shared campus, but has since changed his mind.
I was skeptical at first because I really love this building and I love the neighborhood. But the reality is that it s lonely to be a Jew in Old Orchard, he said. There are not that many Jews here anymore. After being in on so many meetings to discuss the design, I m really excited because it s a great design, there s not a lot of wasted space, it is maximized for multiple uses, and I m looking forward to being in a campus environment.
He said planning the building has helped him learn about the real needs of the congregation. It s been very telling and very rewarding.
Mr. Musher-Eizenmann said that when B nai Israel officials asked him to design the facility, he urged them to first interview other architects and consider all their options.
I didn t want them to hire me just because they knew me. But they came back to me after interviewing other architects, he said. I like to think that I m passionate about everything I do, but this project has been a very meaningful one for me. Not only is it an expression of my Jewish heritage, but it s also a reflection of my involvement in the Jewish community of Toledo. It s an honor to be involved in the design of this project.
The building is expected to be completed in early 2007.
At Westgate Chapel, the addition will include more educational areas, an expanded, glass-enclosed atrium, and a multipurpose room, according to Don Benoit, director of music and worship.
The new project will cost about $5 million, which is just $600,000 less than the cost of the church itself, which opened in 1993 alongside U.S. 23/I-475. That 68,000-square-foot building has a sanctuary that seats about 1,000. Most of the new space will be used for educational areas for young children up to 6th grade, Mr. Benoit said.
We re turning kids away on our Wednesday night program. We had to put some kids on a waiting list, he said.
Westgate Chapel s addition should be ready in the fall of 2006, Mr. Benoit said.
At Dayspring Assembly of God, on Dixie Highway in Bowling Green, the new prayer chapel will be open during church office hours, with the goal of eventually staying open 24 hours a day, according to the Rev. James D. Allen, pastor. It s going to take time to get the staffing, Mr. Allen said. But it s open to whoever wants to stop by and pray.
The chapel features an inner court, a holy place that seats about 125, and Old Testament symbols including a laver representing the washing away of sins. Eventually a brazen altar, representing the place where Israelites made their ritual sacrifices, will be added, Mr. Allen said.
There is an area for Bible reading and a section for prayer, with Scriptures displayed on the wall, the pastor said.
When you walk in, there s a sense of peace, Mr. Allen said.
Contact David Yonke at: email@example.com or 419-724-6154.