In what is being billed as its single-largest capital campaign, the 40-year-old Congregation Etz Chaim recently launched its #Renewal2020 effort. The Conservative Marietta synagogue plans to raise an estimated $4.3 million to renovate its social hall, kitchens, sanctuary and education wing. So far, about 40 families have donated more than $2 million, about half of the campaign’s goal.
The renovation, announced Nov. 19, sets the synagogue up for the future, and is an effort to meet the needs of all members, from the youngest families to those with hearing or mobility issues, said David Miller, who chairs the campaign with his wife, Cheryl, a former synagogue president.
Among the biggest fixes is making the lower bimah accessible to all congregants – there are just under 600 members – and improving the synagogue’s lighting, heating, ventilation, air, and sound systems.
Renovation of the education wing “reflects our commitment to education and our younger families.” The beautification of the social hall and kitchen upgrades “offer congregants an improved and lower-cost option to hold simchas in the shul.” And updates to the sanctuary make the synagogue more inclusive, from wheelchair accessibility to the lower bimah to an enhanced sound system, he said.
“Everything we are doing will update the aesthetics of the facility, while improving its operational efficiencies and reducing maintenance costs,” said Bob Bachrach, a past president and the project’s manager. Many of the updates are needed because of the age of the building, erected in 1981, and its original equipment, he said.
Among the renovation items:
• Install a hearing aid-compatible system to help those who are hearing-impaired.
• Update current sound system by installing new speakers.
• Replace six HVAC systems and add two new systems, one in each kitchen.
• Replace all lighting in the sanctuary and social hall with an LED system.
• Reconfigure the roof in the social hall and install an attractive, sound-absorbing ceiling.
• Replace floor in the social hall as well as windows with broken seals.
• Install stained glass windows flanking the upper bimah.
Construction should begin in June 2019 with the sanctuary and kitchen renovations completed in time for the High Holidays. Work will resume with the social hall renovation after the holidays and the project should be complete in the spring of 2020, Bachrach said.
Etz Chaim is working with Collins Cooper Carusi Architects to complete the initial construction drawings, and chose Gay Construction as its general contractor following a competitive bid process. The synagogue will work with Ascalon Studios of New Jersey on the stained-glass design and installation.
“We met with a few key donors to be sure we had a strong start and have continued to meet with other families, who traditionally give to the synagogue, in small group settings, to get their commitments,” Cheryl Miller said.
The project is based on feedback the synagogue received from focus groups last summer, according to a Nov. 19 letter members received about the project.
“This amazing endeavor poises us for the future, allowing us to be more inclusive, more energy-efficient, and more cost-effective on a daily basis,” the Millers wrote in their letter to the congregation.
Just last year, the synagogue updated its library. In 2015, the chapel was renovated, and in 2012, the lobby. Some of the aesthetic finishes from the lobby will be incorporated into the sanctuary and social hall “for a fresh, cohesive look,” the Millers wrote to congregants. “We like to call the entire construction undertaking ‘purposeful and pretty,’ updating many of our critical and essential behind-the-wall operations.”