“A great building must begin with the unmeasurable, must go through measurable
means when it is being designed and in the end must be


– American Architect

(born Itze-Leib Schmuilowsky, 1901, Estonia) 

Ours is a great building. Our congregation first worshipped at this location in 1957 after moving from the Washington Boulevard Temple. We have prayed here, learned  here, worked for social justice here, laughed here and cried here. A great deal  has changed since that time. And, if you were alive back then, you’ve changed too. Just look in the mirror. Sorry!
Our  building has aged, pretty well, actually, but it is showing unmistakable signs of wear and tear. We do our best to maintain the structural integrity of the synagogue. Perhaps you’ve noticed scaffolding on the sides of the building in recent weeks. We’ve been doing masonry, tuck-pointing and window caulking work to make sure that the “envelope” is tight. But, some things can’t be maintained and need to be replaced. The large, heavy, impressive brass doors that have graced our entrance for 55 years, on Harlem Avenue, have deteriorated beyond repair. They’ve become inoperable, unsafe and it’s time for a change.
I’m pleased to tell you that, with the approval of the Board of Directors, Oak Park Temple has retained the services of Newman Architecture, a firm with extensive experience and with the ability to help us to make the changes we need to make the main entrance to Oak Park Temple aesthetically appealing and safe. It is our plan to have this work completed by the High Holidays, so that we may all enter the building in the manner that was intended when the congregation first opened those doors.
In addition to wear and tear, there have also been changes in the ways that we use our building. As we approach our sesquicentennial, the 150th anniversary of the founding of our congregation in 1864, it’s time to evaluate the use of our space. We expect our building to be a home for diverse activities and functions and to provide us with feelings of intimacy, warmth and comfort. 
We have commissionedNewman Architecture to undertake a study of our space to find ways to improve the extraordinary asset that our building is. In the months ahead, we will be seeking input from members of our congregation to help our architects envision our uses and needs for the foreseeable future. They will assist us in creating a plan for the use of our space that will be in keeping with the spiritual and functional goals of
our congregation.
Our  building should be the best possible place to build a sacred community centered on Jewish worship, learning and social justice.  As I said to you at Rosh Hashanah last fall, our building is like a shofar. It is hollow and empty until we fill it with our breath and spirit. What  happens here truly defines the space. As we move forward, let’s enjoy the excitement of creating a space in which our ruach (spirit) can reside and thrive.

Jeff Blaine

Share This