In renewal

Please join in this open conversation about the physical renewal of Holy Blossom Temple building. As we embark on this new era for our congregation by renewing our building, we want as many voices as possible to contribute to the visioning.

One way we hope to collect your ideas is through online conversations, and there will be other opportunities to come as we go forward. What we need now that the schematic drawings are done (they can be found here), are more specific ideas for how our spaces feel and are used, as we enter the detailed design phase. The online conversation is meant to elicit your ideas about what our community needs now and in the future in these areas.

View of Gardens and New Ava Road Entry

View of Gardens and New Ava Road Entry

Just as a reminder, the footprint of the building itself, and location of major use spaces like the boardroom, sanctuary, etc. – are already set and constrained by cost, timing and other issues.  Yet within these constraints, we have many options to make the space right for all of us. So we urge you to think ahead, think laterally, think about your children and even their children.

Of course we won’t be able to satisfy everyone or use everyone’s ideas.  That is just the nature of the process.  Please understand your ideas matter; please also understand we will do our utmost to balance all the ideas we hear, always keeping in mind the best interests of the Holy Blossom community as a whole.

Thanks in advance for joining the conversation!

As fellow members of the Holy Blossom community, we’re pleased to join you in this important conversation about the physical renewal of Holy Blossom Temple.  Our commitment is to engage actively in this conversation with you – listening to your ideas and responding to your posts promptly – within 24 hours, where possible. We will forward specific clarifying questions to the Building Committee or to others, as needed. We hope you’ll join the conversation!

Renewal Project Engagement Committee

[one_half]Eric Beutel
Joan Garson, Chair
Eric Klein
Nancy Ruth
David Sadowski
[/one_half][one_half_last]Rob Simonsky
Brenda Spiegler
Cheryl Sylvester
Russ Joseph
Rabbi Yael Splansky

All postings to the electronic suggestion box must be submitted in a member’s name and confirmed via email address provided. Please clearly state in your response if you would like your comment to be forwarded privately to the Renewal Project Engagement Committee or published on the website. Please keep all comments constructive and responsive to the question. All published comments are subject to existing moderation policies established for the website by Holy Blossom Temple.

[feature_box title=”Please take a few moments and give us your thoughts
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1.  Look & Feel of the renewed Holy Blossom Temple building

Our initial listening to our Holy Blossom community via the Congregational Survey tells us that we are looking to create a renewed Holy Blossom Temple that is:  “comfortable”, “conducive to bringing congregants together”, “family friendly”, “inspiring”, “environmentally friendly”.

Can you describe more fully what these attributes about the look and feel of the building mean to you? Are there any other look and feel aspects you can think of?

Please feel free to list adjectives, provide lengthier descriptions, send photos of spaces that capture the feel you are describing.

2.  Programming within the renewed Holy Blossom Temple building

Many activities beyond worship and religious education for our children take place within our walls. The Congregational Survey has told us we’re most likely to use/attend lecture series, adult education, music and theatre, Simchas and other catered events.

What do these programs mean to our community? How can we create spaces that will support these (and other) types of activities?

What programs currently running should be housed within our building and how should the building accommodate them?

Are there any programs that we are not running that you would like to see, and how should the building accommodate them? For yourself, your children/grandchildren, your parents? What would bring you and your friends into our building more often?

Please feel free to list adjectives, provide lengthier descriptions, send photos of spaces that capture the feel you are describing.

3.  Spaces within the renewed Holy Blossom Temple building

We want to explore the spaces that we might use, and the ways in which they could be used, in our renewed building.

We know from our congregational survey that worship spaces are by far the most likely to be used, followed by large and small social gathering spaces.

What spaces are needed (in addition to our main sanctuary and family chapel) to house worship? For our youth?

What spaces are needed for our social gatherings and how would we use them?

How should we best use our new central atrium?  Beyond Simchas and community events, what could happen in the large social space?

What other spaces, beyond worship and social, should be housed within our building?

Please feel free to list adjectives, provide lengthier descriptions, send photos of spaces that capture the feel you are describing.


Thank you and keep your eyes on this space: there will be more opportunities for engagement to come.

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Showing 14 comments
  • Nada Simon-Hara

    A simple question: are we going to have escalators at HB? You know the problems we had few weeks ago (during senior’s Mondays) when elevators didn’t work.
    I was in many European Opera/Ballet Houses (not yet in St.Petersburg New Mariinsky Theatre) and we can compete with our beautiful Four Season Centre. But … it doesn’t have escalators. Same known architect Mr. Diamond. I think that there are a lot advantages having escalator in the building.
    Thank you for your reply.
    Nada Simon-Hara

  • Phyllis Cincinatus

    Thank you for the opportunity to be part of the conversation. I am fiscally cautious, somewhat opinionated and mostly practical.
    I think that before we put a shovel in the ground we – as a congregation – need to take 2 inventories.
    The first is a practical, physical inventory; what do we own and how/where will we store it? This is everything from High Holy Day prayer books, the Sukkah, tables, chairs, out-of-the-cold mattresses, Purim Carnival games and supplies, archives, art and precious ritual items, toilet paper and maintenance supplies, school supplies to clergy and office staff. The current building relies on a lot of nooks and crannies for storage, many of which will be eliminated in the proposed plans.
    The second inventory needs to address who we want to be and therefore what kind of space we may require. Is fixed seating a practical option if it limits the use of a space? The plan presented just offer us more of what we already have…offices, classrooms, uni-task spaces (fixed seating) plus a lot of wow for a visitor (the atrium) but not for every-day use. We need to examine the role of synagogue, the trend away from membership and the traditional model and be realistic about the future. If we want to be a hub of the community then now is the time to start thinking out-of-the-box…before we build the box! Let’s be innovative – a gym perhaps? Think JCC; floor hockey, basketball, student theatre, music classes or any after-school extra-curricular programs. Have small bakery/café. Perhaps an internet café/library offering subscriptions to genealogical research sites with workshops. Daytime non-senior focused programs…sewing, knitting, art, cooking, workout/sport/dance/yoga…
    I find amusing the statement that worship spaces are by far the most likely to be used…That is a symptom of not knowing how to market ourselves. We hold prime real estate in this neighbourhood. My family has hosted (catered) 2 b’nai mitzvah dinner/dances (not luncheons)in the social hall, 2 seders (and booked again for this year), and 1 Friday night dinner (pre-bar mitzvah)…perhaps nicer, well-appointed multi-use venues (of various sizes, with necessary kitchen set-ups) and better PR to rent out the spaces would make this usage the norm and not the exception.
    The practical part of me asks; why are the youth are in a windowless room on the 3rd floor tucked in behind the stairs? What are the financial implications of heating and cooling the proposed atrium? What is the cost of installing and then (more importantly) maintaining the living/green wall? Why are the clergy offices and the nursery school on the same floor? Why are we retaining the stage in the PSCH? Why are the washrooms so far from the sanctuary?
    The plan needs to be so much bigger than just a building.

    • Joan Garson


      Thank you for your very thoughtful reply and my apologies for the delay in responding.

      The kind of detailed thinking in your two (very different) questions is absolutely mandatory as part of the design process and we hope as part of the several pronged engagement process to gather this specific kind of information as responsively to our future needs as possible.

      You will be happy to know that the architects are helping us to be very quantitative and detailed in outlining our requirements in regards to storage (and other finite questions).

      But as to the overarching questions you are raising: I hope personally and on behalf of the Congregation that you will join in our communal discussions over the next few weeks to advance your ideas. You have touched on a number of topics that are receiving much attention amongst members of the Congregation and the discussion is happening right now: flexibility, how to be a hub if we chose to do that, other kinds of worship and community life beyond worship, needs of youth, etc etc etc.

      Your comments will be passed on to the building committee and the architects; I do hope you will join in the discussions this July so our community can explore them further together with you.

      Many thanks for this comment

  • Pnina Margolese

    When this project began, many years ago, a number of us did formal proposals. One such proposal was for a walk-in Judaica Shop. Does this still stand! It needs to be in the Attrium space, and can be a source of “community” gathering. Also, I feel that there should be a gathering space in the Attrium, not just a space where children wait for their car to drive up to pick them up, but a space where those picking up children have a chance to meet each other over a cup of coffee or whatever. A very friendly enviorment that people will want to come to.

    • Eric Klein

      My name is Eric Klein (you may know me better as Gillian Helfield’s husband!!). I am a member of the Temple’s Renewal Engagement Committee. I wanted to take a moment and thank you for your comments posted on the website with respect to the renewal project. Your comments will be forwarded to the Building Committee where they can be considered in an appropriate manner. As well in the fall there will be discussions with the many committees who commented on their particular wishes and of course Sisterhood will be consulted to continue the discussion from an earlier plan. Your comments about the Atrium resonate with many congregants who are also seeking that warm community feel from the new space. Again thank you for taking the time to respond.

      Eric Klein

  • Harriet Wolman

    I echo the comments regarding user-friendly washrooms nearer to the Sanctuary. Care should be given to having adequate women’s facilities since these seem always to be less than ideal in places where there will be large crowds. I would also like to comment on the Bride’s Room which appears to still be downstairs from the Sanctuary. I used that room once nearly 60 years ago. It was not comfortable then and would not be now. A bride’s gown does not take kindly to stairs up and down and such a facility should be closer to where the marriage ceremony will take place to take into account the fact that parents may not be as agile as the bride.
    This consultation is an excellent way to get feedback from members of the Congregation of all ages. Please consider my comments but no public feedback is necessary. Thanks. HW
    PS The Wolman Chupah is currently being restored – I hope there will be a use for it, either as a Chupah or a wall hanging. It commemorates the long and happy marriage of Lillian and William Wolman and was donated by the Wolman family in the early 80’s.

    • Lynn Gluckman


      Thank you so much for taking the time to join the conversation. You obviously have a long and rich history at the Temple. I too was married at Holy Blossom and understand your concerns. Your feedback is practical and just makes good sense. We will certainly be passing it along to the Building Committee.

      And how wonderful that your family Chupah is being restored. What a beautiful way to commemorate a wonderful marriage. I would be happy to inquire about putting it to good use.

      Many thanks again for your thoughtful response.

      Lynn Gluckman
      Renewal Engagement Committee

  • Etta Ginsberg McEwan

    Although I have been a member for almost 15 yrs., I do not find Holy Blossom Temple or its leadership particularly mindful or inclusive of people with disabilities. (I am not talking about the physical changes as one ages.) One does not find many people with disabilities at HB – such as the deaf, the blind, the physically disabled, the intellectual disabled, and those with emotional difficulties. I recall years ago being on the Board and this question was raised. The Board planned on studying the problem and begin outreach. This never happened.
    HB is not physically accessible. When the planning for renewal was started, I sent several e-mails requesting a meeting with the architects. Nothing (which seems to be the usual scenario) came of that; a meeting never happened. Architects do not know about access. They think of a hand rail here and there, a ramp but do not understand bathrooms, how to have proper seating in places of worship, etc.
    The heart of a synagogue is not how beautiful it is. Rather the heart rests in the congregation itself; its inclusiveness, its valuing of all peoples, its Shabbat and holiday services, its Holiness.

    • Joan Garson


      Thank you for your email, for taking the time and investing the concern to raise the issue of accessibility in the value-filled way you did, and for challenging us all to find meaning in what happens within our building. I am responding as Chair of the Renewal Engagement Committee.

      Please be assured that the Chair of the Building Committee of the Renewal Project believes in the importance of accessibility in the renewed building. I promise you that he will receive your comment tonight, and that a meeting for you with the Building Committee will be arranged.

      Last Monday I attended [email protected] as part of the Renewal Engagement process, spoke to many participants, and heard many of the same concerns. Please know that you are not the only voice emphasizing the importance of this issue.

      Thank you once again for your commitment to educating our congregation and improving our community.

      Joan Garson

  • Mariam Leitman

    Question 1:
    On ‘Look and Feel’, I agree with what’s been said in the comments accompanying question 1. I would put special emphasis on “conducive to bringing congregants together”, though more than space and design will be required to bring congregants together.

    Question 2:
    On ‘Programming’, thought could be given to somewhat cushier seating for lectures. Slightly raked seating for lectures might be worth considering, depending on cost. It would also be nice if it were not such a maze to get to the room in which most lectures are set. But none of these are must-haves. Better sound equipment management and better air temperature management for lectures would be welcome. If the 3rd floor sanctuary will continue to be used for services and lectures, I think (but am no expert) that the light could be warmer. without being less bright. Also, the room is not beautiful. However, none of these comments are fundamental to successful lecture programming. The existing space is not so deficient.

    Some adult education classes/courses that I have attended have been in comfortable, pleasant settings, some not. I think the space needs are simple: a nice table and comfortable chairs.

    Simchas and other catered events: It would be nice for HBT to offer a lovely simcha venue, but only if it will pay for itself more or less. So long as not costly, it is good for congregants to associate their simchas with their shuls.

    Question #3:
    I have not been involved in the building renewal thinking so I don’t have anything to offer in response to this question. I do think HBT might, by way of programming, start chavurot for members (not just new members), but I think chavurah meetings might best be held at the homes of members of the chavurot.

    General comment:
    I recognize and support the need to address the aging infrastructure of HBT. And we all want to update the look of our homes, and by times some updating is needed. But I think HBT’s most significant issues are human, not architectural.

    • Nancy Ruth

      Hi Miriam,
      Thank you for your prompt and thoughtful response. The issues of comfort, warmth, the sound system and cost effective ways to update our Temple are areas that will be given a great deal of consideration and I will be passing your comments along to the appropriate committies for further discussion.

      Again, our thanks for your input.
      Nancy Ruth

  • Mike Morgulis

    The Atrium is going to be the official and unofficial gathering place for the shul, and as such it should not be sterile or monumental but rather well thought out in terms of lighting, sound attenuation, and decor. We have many artifacts which lanquish in storage currently, but could be displayed in niches or cases around the perimeter, and changed from time to time. We have busts, sculptures and paintings which should also rotate through the space. There should be sitting areas for people so that it is inviting and not merely an avenue. Rather, it should become an indoor piazza. And there should be an absence of “shooshers” who currently tell us to keep our voices down. Now that the entries to the Sanctuary has been designed with 2 sets of doors and an 8′ vestibule between them, then there should be negligible sound transmission as it will be nearly impossible to have both doors open at once during services – both sets COULD be opened at the start and end of services to allow smooth flow through the use of simple hold-open devices that comply with fire codes (mag-locks).

    The Atrium should also be a place of celebration, complete with piano and stacking chairs (hidden until needed). Piped-in music would also be nice. Currently our only real gathering area is by the security desk, and it gets full very quickly. At shul there are dozens of ad-hoc discussions occruing in this tiny area, some official, some intimate, some just between friends. It would nice to have a larger, inviting atmosphere for these chats to occur around the edges. Not sure what the Living Wall is or what it looks like, but anything that occupies permanence in this space really needs to be examined. I’d like it very much not to be a wall full of donor plaques, but rather art and expression, which can be changed from season to season, holiday to holiday.

    This space will be where the brunt of greeting and dimissing will occur. It is an area of handshakes, hugs, kisses and tears. It needs to be open and bright enough to let us feel unburdened, but not so monumental as to remove the human scale.

    The Atrium acts as a transitional space where we shed our mundane/profane lives and transform ourselves into a holy community. What we do in that space aesthetically and physically is as important as what we do in the sanctuaries and classrooms – that space must remind us that we are a holy community, and help us to move from our outer self towards our inner self, and then help us meet the outside world again as we leave. As such, there should be no reason to wheel dishes or equipment or trash etc through it from one spot to another, as happens at the Ava Road entrance currently. Nothing says “well, that deep moment is gone” more than a cart of dirty dishes clanking past. A double-ended elevator which opens into the boardroom servery, could in fact provide the necessary escape route, along with a direct exit to the outdoors. Same deal up on the 3rd floor, don’t have it open up merely into the foyer but also have those doors open into the servery. Keep the noisy dirty dishes and garbage away from public areas.

    There is a ramp missing on the second floor somewhere… there are stairs in the Assistant/Associate Rabbi’s foyer which currently take up the change in elevations, but these do not appear on the plans.

    Changing spaces now…. in other shuls I’ve seen small chapels. Our youth could well afford to use one such chapel, as would a couple who wants to marry but not in the main sanctuary or family chapel. We all need a room of refuge from time to time, a meaningful room which has an Aron HaKodesh, in which we can feel closer to God and transmit our prayers privately. Currently this is tough to do when there are practises in the main sanctuary (choir, Torah chanters, simchas), the Herman Chapel, the Youth Chapel and the Board Room. None of these spaces currently allow exclusive quiet thought. It need only seat 20-30 people.

    It would be nice to have a workshop where things can be made. We have Stagecraft which requires sets to be built, and we used to have amazing Purim Sphiels which also had sets. I’ve built many things in the past for the shul, but never in a place designed for building (most of the time in my living room actually). We need to be able to make a mess, use a power tool, create sawdust, apply a coat of paint, repair a table or chair… it need not be huge, but should be open to those who need it. It should not become a junk-collection spot nor yet another area for custodial storage.

    WI-FI and AV in our current facility are atrocious, as is the current tannoy system. Obviously upgrades are required, but allowing for concealed cable passage in the designs are key. Our Power and Data engineers need to make allowances for future wiring in easily accessable cable runs and conduits. Not being able to reach the outside world while teaching a class is horrible – we are ignoring a great tool, the internet. We lost that when we lost Leo Baeck, and I’m sure that any new tenants would like to have this ability.

    Fully functional, accessible drinking fountains on each floor. Change tables in all washrooms. Resistant and durable washroom partitions which resist grafitti and scratchitti. Flush-mounted marine outlets in the main sanctuary and other assembly/worshp areas for data and power, and hook-ups for AV/music thus alleviating temporary extension cords running all over as tripping hazards.

    The proposed Family Chapel will be occupying the former Eisendrath Auditorium/gym. I do sincerely hope that it will not merely be stacking chairs and a portable bimah but rather a complete renovation and dedicated room. It is horrifically flawed acoustically, the absence of HVAC and window shading makes it unbearably hot in the mornings (when the brunt of the most-attended services occur), the chairs are nominal at best for comfort and do not allow for the storage of siddurim or a Chumash and pew card or tallit case, and it is, at best, a space to either play floor hockey or host a luncheon. The mile-high ceiling is unattractive – it needs a buffer like the current ceiling in the Youth Chapel to help make the scale more human, and the entryways lack ceremony or transitional purpose. It needs to be well thought-out, well planned, and have a permanent bimah, ark, and purpose-built chairs. It’s bad enough that Family Services get pushed down into the Philip Smith foyer from time to time, which usually has bare walls and the stench of efluent from the men’s washroom. I see that the current entries into the Family Chapel are remaining as existing, with no sound-barrier. Imagine the sanctity of a service constantly upset by people transiting through the space merely to shortcut around the atrium. There should be a second set of doors at the TOP of the ramp so as to ensure the lack of sound transmission and also deter folks from cutting through the space during services. Similarly, put the cantor’s door to the south end of the room and this will allow a second set of doors into the Family Chapel to be provided as a vestibule. A rendering of this space is absolutely critical, it is not merely an after-thought for “those other people” in the shul. I AM one of “those other people”. We need to see a full architect’s rendering of the proposed space before we move forward.

    Washrooms on the ground floor are MILES away from the Sanctuary. We have an aging population who may or may not make it to the washroom, which is planned to be about as far away from the sanctuary as one could put it and through a set of double doors. I celebrate the designer’s resolve, however I might not make it in time one day. Let’s rethink that a bit, it would be nice not to miss 10 minutes of a service purely by going to and from the only washroom on the same floor as the Sanctuary. It’s also a location with windows… why not put the Boardroom over there and the washrooms on the south side, closer to the Sanctuary. It’s also equidistant from the office entrance. This would also allow the elevator to let-out into a hallway where the loading dock is located… alas, a hidden passage for all things currently rolling in and out through the only entry into the building. Two birds with one stone.. hurrah!

    Lastly, as our sanctuary was built facing a non-easterly direction; we should have a Mizrach of sorts, something to remind us to remember Jerusalem. The “Living Wall” faces West, not East, and thus perpetuates our ignorance of Jerusalem. Our Atrium can provide this for us, but perhaps this is something which can be incorporated into each room. We should also have a mezzuzah at each room, which is something people could contribute towards, thus allowing those of meager means to participate, yet still feel proud to have contributed. A variety of mezzuzot cases will give us an opportunity to celebrate our different artisic tastes, family backgrounds, cultural backgrounds (Sephardic, Mizrachi, Persian, Israeli, African, Russian, Polish, Canadian…) while simultaneously reminding us that we are in a holy space… a classroom is indeed a holy space.

    Mike Morgulis

    • Lindi Rivers

      Mike, I think you’ve made some excellent comments and suggestions. I’d love to see you meet with Diamond and Schmitt and the steering committee if you haven’t already.

    • Robert Simonsky

      Mike, Thanks so much for your huge contribution here. It’s obvious how much you care about getting things right as we move forward. Your highly constructive ideas regarding the much anticipated Atrium, a small and private much needed chapel and event support facility for our numerous music and theatre productions are sure to be of great value to the Building Committee. I hope these ideas stimulate others to join in this conversation whether in response to you or independently. And I totally agree that modern necessities like universal Wi-Fi accessibility and user friendly AV systems have to be built into the fabric of the building. Upgrading the restrooms and increasing comfort levels are very important to the entire congregation and will be carefully addressed. Mike, you will be a person that we look forward to hearing from especially at future ‘get-togethers’ that will be taking place very soon.

      Robert Simonsky
      Renewal Engagement Committee

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