When members of Congregation Adat Reyim first gathered inside their sanctuary in the spring of 1990, the space was empty — no furniture, nothing on the walls, the only light coming in through some windows.
But that was OK. Until then, the congregation worshipped in temporary quarters, so “before we did much else, we just wanted to celebrate,” says Eileen Kugler, a member of the unaffiliated congregation in Springfield.
They danced the hora inside their bare sanctuary to celebrate that the synagogue was built, and the synagogue belonged to them.
Those same congregants are experiencing déjà vu this summer. Adat Reyim’s sanctuary has been stripped to its bare walls for the interior renovations, or what congregants call a rejuvenation. A new moveable wall is being installed, along with new floors and carpet. Rejuvenation also means new lights and refurbished bathrooms.
“Our building was getting older. It was in its late 20s, and it was feeling its age,” says Andrea Cate, who chairs the committee leading the renovations, during an interview in the synagogue’s library.
The library is being used for much more than reading this summer. Since construction started it is also a sanctuary, meeting room, construction headquarters and anything else congregants need it to be.
The initial construction began June 5 with a $415,000 budget, funded by the synagogue’s 250 families. That will cover an enlarged bima with a wheelchair ramp, flooring and carpeting, ceiling tiles and lighting, among other things inside the synagogue’s sanctuary and lobby. Cate estimates all of the construction will be finished on Sept. 8.
The congregation has taken strides to ensure that decisions made about the renovations are transparent, says David Berkowitz, Adat Reyim’s president.
Three chairs are in the lobby with signs inviting congregants to choose their favorite — with arms and without arms, dark wood and lighter tones. A large poster stood in the lobby Purim and Passover inviting congregants to vote on things they thought were important for the synagogue’s appearance.
One suggestion was ensuring accessibility. This prompted the construction of a wheelchair ramp. Another idea was nature, which guided choices on flooring and the wood used to build an ark for the congregation’s Torah scrolls, according to Cate.
The congregation’s next fundraising goal is $750,000 to buy new shelves for prayer books, lobby furniture and audio/visual equipment, among other things.
The congregants who danced the hora in 1990 express excitement about the rejuvenation of their synagogue. The founders say they are modernizing the synagogue for future generations
“What we have developed is a building that has suited our needs,” says Craig Adler, a congregant from Fairfax Station whose three adult children celebrated their b’nai mitzvah at Adat Reyim. But the “generation that began the congregation has kids, and now grandkids.”