By Bob Charendoff.
As Moses stood before the burning bush, God revealed his perfect name: Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh (Exodus 3:14) – “I will be what I will be”. With this, even God’s “name” suggests a future of perpetual change and renewal.
I recently had the amazing experience of touring the construction areas of Holy Blossom Temple’s Renewal Project – behind all of the walls and barricades. For the past year most of us haven’t seen the other side of those barriers, other than in pictures. I was interested… excited… to see what had been happening on the other side. I admit, I had no idea what to expect. Having been a member of Holy Blossom since I was 2 years old – and having gone through Religious School from Consecration to Confirmation, been Bar Mitzvah’d and married there… I felt I was quite familiar with the old building.
When I was a kid, my friends and I would explore in areas of the building that, frankly, we weren’t supposed to be in. I’m pretty sure I had been in every room (including Heinz Warschauer’s office, on more than one occasion!), from Jacob’s Tower to the bowels of the basement. As an adult, with my involvement with Out of the Cold, I became familiar with other areas that few would venture into (other than perhaps the security and maintenance people). I’d say I knew the building pretty well. Having seen the photos posted on Facebook and in the Temple Bulletin showing construction progress, I regularly had asked “Where is this?” and “What am I looking at?”. It was all so unrecognizable. Getting to see it close up and personal was going to be an entirely different thing altogether.
For my safety I was required to put on a hard hat, safety glasses and steel-toed boots. We were going in!
My tour began with a view of what was the Dewbourne St. entrance – what formerly had been the Religious School Lobby and, below that, the foyer to the Phillip Smith Hall. To some degree, I could recognize what it used to be. From memory, I could locate, (approximately, at least) where the old elevator used to be.
My tour guides, Russ Joseph and Robert Carnevale, did their best to explain where I was, by pointing out where old offices, etc., used to be. In some cases, I could figure it out – with their help. In others, I was completely disoriented and lost in a vast chamber, reminiscent of an archaeological dig. I found myself standing in the rough vicinity of Cantor Maissner’s old music room, and once I got my bearings (sort of ), I could imagine where the original Ava Rd. lobby used to be, and where the Rabbis’ offices existed.
There were no walls or floors, so it was a challenge to visualize. At another point, I realized I was in what was the Eisendrath Auditorium, however I was so disoriented I had the room opposite to its actual direction. I had used the door openings to map it out, but then realized I had got it backwards.
I was then taken into a basement area beneath the Main Sanctuary, where Russ told me I’d probably never been. I reminded him of my escapades when I was at Religious School … and that there was a pretty good chance I had! I asked him if he knew that, at one time, there were vending machines downstairs where you could buy snacks and drinks. He didn’t. He pointed out the supporting columns that hold up the rotunda above the Bima. Outside, you could see the opposite side of the apse of the Sanctuary – which you could never see before as it was hidden within walls.
Because of active demolition activity, there were areas we were not able to explore, for safety reasons. We were only allowed to peek in. Thus, my tour was over, and Russ jokingly suggested that, like all tours, this one end at the Gift Shop. Should I get the “HBT 2018” T-Shirt? Or maybe I’ll buy that new Seder Plate my wife says we need. Decisions, decisions…
It occurred to me what an exciting moment this was, for me, and WE, as a congregation. Walking through this construction zone, trying to find my bearings, brought back so many incredible memories of growing up at Holy Blossom Temple. Remembering what it was – what it looks like now in its excavated condition – and looking forward to the future in our new vibrant campus. With its light-filled central Atrium, Library, Youth Lounge, Family Chapel and other beautiful spaces, it promises to be a place where families will congregate and mingle. Maybe no ancient vending machines… but there will be a Café, where people will socialize and schmooze. It’ll be a place where people will pray and learn. And, as always, a place kids will explore.
What was old becomes new. Change and renewal. “I will be what I will be.”