Kvelling About Our Community

By Harold Goldman | Issue Date: May 2011

Abraham Joshua Heschel School on 89th Street. Photo: Max Orenstein

A contract has been signed by BJ to purchase the Abraham Joshua Heschel School on 89th Street, and the closing will occur in May. This is an incredible accomplishment!

Our congregation came together to raise the funds to make the dream of returning to our historic home a reality. This happened because congregants from all walks of life stepped up and gave generously to the capital campaign. Every gift made a difference. One contributor recently lost his job, but he and his wife made a gift anyway because of the important role the synagogue played in their lives. He told me that he felt confident that he would find a new job and that once he did they would increase their gift.

An older woman living on a fixed income made a generous gift to the campaign and then increased her gift in response to BJ’s request to stretch when we learned that the purchase price would be higher than we had thought. Although it was a difficult period for her financially because she was earning very little on her investments, she wanted to do more because acquiring the 89th Street building was so important to the future of BJ.

I could go on and on sharing the many stories I heard during the course of the campaign, but they all share a common theme—namely, a deep love for BJ.

This successful outcome could not have happened without the leadership of the Rabbis, Ari, the board of trustees, staff, and the work of so many volunteers who pitched in to help. I want to give special recognition to Jonathan Adelsberg, Board President, for his overall leadership, to Judy Stern Peck and Michael Sonnenfeld for their leadership of the major gift portion of the campaign, to Christina Gantcher and Debbie Lerner for chairing the community campaign, to Howard Spivak who volunteered his firm’s architectural services to develop the preliminary plans for how the building could be utilized by BJ, which proved so helpful in raising the funds to buy the building, and to the hosts of the parlor meetings: Sarah Sternklar and Marvin Davis, Meredith Berkman and Daniel Mintz, Bernie Plum, Debra Fine and Marty Schneider, Beth and Jonathan Kern, and Jeannie Blaustein and Peter Bokor.

An enormous amount of work lies ahead before we move in to 89th Street sometime between July 2012 and August 2013. Jeannie Blaustein is chairing a Strategic Planning Committee to revisit BJ’s vision and mission and to lay the groundwork for dreaming about how the building will be used. A Building Committee co-chaired by Robert Buxbaum and Irv Rosenthal is charged with selecting an architectural firm to lead the engineering and design work, and with eliciting BJ’s members’ dreams and aspirations for the building. The funds to renovate the building also have to be raised, and planning for that campaign has already begun.

I am so excited about what the future holds for BJ. No longer will we be space-challenged. All of us will be able to worship on Shabbat in our own home. Jewish education for all age groups will thrive and grow. Seniors, parents, teens, and other groups will have expanded programming and space to socialize. Then we will have even more to kvell about!