On February 7, 2015 we met with our architect, Scott Cohen, and Cantor Shames. The meeting was in the Sanctuary and lasted about 1 hour and 45 minutes. Initially there were about 100 people. As it was Shabbat, notes could not be taken, but I have done my best to summarize the meeting. Please email me at
if you have additions or corrections.
Rabbi Katz started by welcoming us and emphasizing our values in this endeavor including being fiscally responsible, making our services handicapped accessible, and our services more interactive, warm and welcoming as we cultivate and strengthen our community, and building for our future.
Scott presented two alternative plans…
(Please see attachments below…)
He emphasized that we have not chosen one plan over another and that we are still in an early stage of exploration.
He discussed the center “Chapel in the Sanctuary” with about 120 seats that could be re-arranged as for High Holy Days or other events. (These would be individual seats linked together.)
He discussed accessibility. We are in the 25th year of the Americans with Disabilities Act which mandates physical accessibility being essential, and also that we should recognize that those who are disabled should have a similar experience as non-disabled people have. Their experiences should not be isolated. To include them in the sequence with non-handicapped people. “Spatial Justice.”
Plan 2/2/15 -- More “arena-like” with a skewed angle. Seating in the middle again would be movable. This does shape a somewhat more unusual flat area, and more limited in terms of numbers of seats in the center.
Plan 2/4/15 -- Similar to earlier plan, but with the seating pivoted slightly towards the high bimah
In the October plan, the flat floor area is more regularly shaped.
Discussed building the main floor that might be with either wood or concrete, for which we will need engineering input.
We can add a central aisle in the October design (on the side seating…so each row is not so long).
Acoustics discussed…need to have a formal evaluation of this.
A question of application of some material to the ceiling. Also, the audio system in this room is old. Our sound contractor a year ago stated it was then adequate, but what they have today is leaps and bounds better. Many ways to improve our audio experience. Could consider acoustic tile or dropped speakers.
Seat positioning discussed…how to keep us engaged during the service. Each plan, as well as the current plan, will have seats where some folks have to twist a bit… the newer plans have less of this.
Discussion on facing the central speakers podium (bimah
on the flat surface) vs. the ark. The ark holds the Torah, but not a focus of worship for most. It has an important role. Our ark is beautiful. Our sense of community, though, is important, our ability to interact with each other. To keep an eye on one and another. The new seating arrangement is common both historically and increasingly in the present. Should the ark be the center of our experience???
Much of the seating is frontal in all these plans, so each person has the option to choose their preferred focus of attention.
Can this room be an “intimate space?” We can agree we all want a more intimate space??? Can this happen? With the height of the ceiling…can we have intimacy?
If we are all sitting closer together it will be more intimate. Cantor Shames used to point out that this (where the new lecturn would be) is the acoustic center of the room. Other rabbis have requested change in our past. If we are speaking from the center of the room that has to help the hearing problem. Handicapped accessible…nothing better than flat and close…as opposed to the trek to the bimah
…no trek, closer distances, close to bathrooms. People complain that it is too hard to come to services…
What makes the chapel so special is not its ark, but its intimacy.
Cantor Shames: we are all friends. Our goal is to make our congregation better if we can. He recalled the 75th anniversary, buring the mortage. He praised the magnificent bimah
. Talked about how every Friday nite would have 500 people.
The rabbis always wanted to come down from the bimah
…this is not the right way. Our society has changed; we are a more and more elderly congregation…harder for people to get up the stairs. If I came today, I could not get up to the bimah
….I could not do an aliyah up at the ark. What are we changing…we are not changing the windows, the ark, the shape of the room. I gave up an organ and a choir which I adored very much. He wore robes when he came. The music changed. We want people to come and talk with the rabbi and sing with the cantor. This may not be what everyone wants, but we are a great congregation. We have to come together. We have to work together. Give a little, take a little. We will love whatever we do. I love this congregation, I hate the conflict, this should be fun, excitement, something to look forward to in this century. Let's come together.
Scott explained the ramp next. Can’t put ramp on right side of the bimah
as there is a stairway to the basement. The ramp does wrap around the marble, so that there will be minimal change in the marble and the menorah will remain in place. There will be a brief period where folks using the ramp will not be clearly visible.
Some discussion on the differences between the designs of 2/2 and 2/4.
A reminder that the ark will remain where it is, but the two steps in front of it would be removed, we would lower the Torahs within the ark.