It’s been close to two decades since Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church last renovated its building. And in that time, membership has nearly doubled to 1,760 member families. So for the past few years the Reform congregation has worked to expand and overhaul its building to meet the needs of its growing community. Those efforts will soon pay off.
Under construction are a small sanctuary, able to seat 100, and an educational/clergy wing, a doubling of the parking lot to 200 spaces, plus improvements to the existing building at 2100 Westmoreland St.
Reyna Pratt is co-chair of the congregation’s Building Project Task Force. She said the construction is necessary, due to the competition for space of weddings, funerals, workshops and other events. The synagogue is a far cry from when it was founded in 1962, with 37 member families.
“The impetus was we were just bursting out of the building,” Pratt said of the expansion. “It was being almost overused.”
The addition containing the new sanctuary will also include five meeting rooms and two social spaces. Pratt said the small sanctuary will be an ideal space for intimate gatherings like funerals and small weddings.
The congregation had planned to construct the small sanctuary in 2001, but delayed it when the temple ran out of funds.
The new two-story education/clergy wing will house classrooms and offices. The plan is to move clergy and administration team into the new wing. There will also be four classrooms for the preschool and religious school.
The current building will be renovated as part of the project. A widened doorway and an interior ramp will be added to the multi-purpose room to allow for increased accessibility to the space. The school lobby doors will be redesigned to allow for wheelchair access, increased security and to prevent temperature loss.
The north and south wings of the main sanctuary will be soundproofed to allow for multiple gatherings to take place at once. Storage space will be added to the social hall, kitchen and gift shop to allow for the storing of chairs, tables and inventory.
“Basically, there will not be a part of the building that hasn’t been impacted by this,” Pratt said. “We used it as an opportunity to take care of a lot of projects.”
The first major phase of construction began in 2014 when the congregation purchased a lot adjacent to its property. Pratt said the congregation then demolished the building on the lot.
“It was really an eyesore,” Pratt said. “So I think the neighborhood was pretty excited when we bought the property and tore it down.”
Architects began work in summer 2015 and construction began in fall 2018. The congregation wrapped up its fundraising campaign for the project in spring 2019, having raised $16 million. Pratt said more than 1,000 people contributed funds.
“It really shows that our whole temple community really thinks that this is important to get done,” Pratt said.
The construction timeline was both helped and hurt by the pandemic. Contractors were able to speed up work after the building closed to the community in March. Until then, they were only able to work on the building in segments.
However, delays in supplies slowed some work, as did COVID-19 itself, which sickened some construction workers.
Pratt estimates the project will be completed in mid-October. She said she looks forward to the impact the expanded building will have on the congregation.
“Part of me is like, ‘I can’t believe this is happening.’ And part of me [thinks], ‘I can’t believe this is still going on,’” Pratt said. “I am super excited and I just can’t wait to be able to hand it off to the congregation and have everybody enjoy it.”