Main Line Reform Gets Spruced Up for Shabbos

An army of construction workers has descended upon Main Line Reform Temple, Beth Elohim – banging hammers, drilling holes and rewiring electricity – as the 45-year-old Wynnewood synagogue undergoes an $8.5 million renovation. The redesigned edifice will add 5,200 square feet of space, including a new 120-seat chapel, an expanded auditorium, a new parlor room and an expanded entryway. The main sanctuary will be getting new seats and a new sound system; the synagogue will also add seven handicapped -accessible bathrooms and an elevator, and refurbish its hallways and nursery-school classrooms.

This extended and noisy reconstruction period has forced the synagogue to hold its Shabbat services at Bryn Mawr Presbyterian Church.

Funding for the overall project has come from congregational donations.

"We have over 400 out of 1,100 families who made contributions to our capital campaign," said Diane Cutler, head of the synagogue's building committee. "We just hit the $8 million mark. Our goal is $9 million, so we can pay off [the renovations] and have some money for new furnishings inside as well."

Construction at Main Line Reform Temple started last December, and is expected to be completed by January of next year. Some individual projects, however, could be ready sooner.

"We're planning on holding our High Holidays here this year. We will have our sanctuary and our auditorium," said Stacey Gerwitz, the synagogue's vice president.

According to Gerwitz, the temple was long overdue for this renovation.

"The building was built and dedicated in 1960," she began. "Since 1960, other than some internal refurbishing of rooms, the building has really not changed."

Beyond a Mere Face-Lift
Cutler stressed that the project goes way beyond a face-lift.

"We have upgraded heating and cooling systems, light and sound systems, plumbing systems, electric systems, life-safety systems," she said. "So it's a lot more than paint, wallpaper and carpet. It's the infrastructure of the building that needs to be upgraded to bring it to current code and keep it safe for our congregants as we go forward."

One of the primary reasons for such an extreme renovation is the desire to make the synagogue accessible to handicapped and aging congregants.

"As a house of worship, we wanted to be an opening, welcoming community," said Gerwitz. "The main thrust of this was to make it handicapped-accessible, so that people could come in and out of our sanctuary with dignity."

In the interim, synagogue life has continued apace at the Bryn Mawr church.

"They have just opened their doors and their hearts to us," replied Gerwitz. "Without them, we would not have been able to function as a congregation."



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