The “Project All Together” aims to bring Shir Shalom’s preschool to the site, as well as add educational, shelter and outdoor spaces for the community.
WWhen Rabbi Dannel I Schwartz envisioned the West Bloomfield building of the Shir Shalom Temple, it should look like a Torah scroll. “I wanted it to look like a Torah, but we only had enough money to make it look like a megillah,” he said JN In 2013.
Now his vision for Shir Shalom should become reality. Shir Shalom will host a groundbreaking ceremony for its $8.1 million expansion on Sunday, April 24. The groundbreaking event will include opportunities for people to capture their thoughts, fond memories and dreams for the Shir Shalom Temple to be placed in a buried time capsule for future discovery. The upcoming Sunday celebration will also feature carnival activities, a picnic lunch and a chance for people to make tiles that will decorate the new space.
The much-anticipated initiative, called Project All Together, is about half funded so far, with funding coming from donations. It aims to bring Shir Shalom’s pre-school to the site, as well as add educational, shelter and outdoor spaces for the community.
“We’ve dreamed of this for a while,” says Rabbi Michael Moskowitz, who joined Shir Shalom when the current building was constructed. Shir Shalom broke ground in August 1994 and the building opened in late August 1995.
“In August 1995, the vision was that one day there would be a second phase in which we could complete the Torah,” Moskowitz recalls. “It’s an honor to be part of a project like this, to see the excitement it brings to the community, and for us to fulfill our vision and mission.”
The pandemic prompted Shir Shalom to reconsider how his space might be used, Moskowitz says, and challenged Shir Shalom’s leadership to think about how to stay connected, build relationships and be even more inclusive. Rabbi Daniel A. Schwartz and Cantor Penny Steyer round out the Shir Shalom clergy.
During the pandemic, Shir Shalom sent high holiday packages and Hanukkah packages to parishioners, ran an outdoor religious school, hosted a cooperative preschool in the social hall, and even held Havdalah in the snow, offering hot drinks around wearables fireplaces.
“We gained members during the pandemic and grew as a community,” explains Moskowitz. “We recognize that the dynamics in the Jewish world and Jewish community are changing, and we want to meet people where they are – our space helps with that too.”
Changing with the needs of the community
The facility will soon have space for its pre-school, which can move from rented premises in Adat Shalom to Shir Shalom, as well as additional adult education space. The expansion will also include a new sacred space where people can gather for a meditation service, a light lunch or a bris, and two additional terraces that could be used for onegs or classes, one of which has a glass wall with Shir Shalom will be connected renovated social hall.
From the 30 families who met in a converted office building on Maple Road in 1988 to the more than 900 families who belong to Shir Shalom today, the community and its needs have constantly evolved, says Moskowitz. Ideas about how people need and want to be together have changed, as has what they value and where they want to be, he says. The building improvements will give them opportunities to be outside and create space to spread out while spending time in a refreshed, upgraded space, he adds.
Shir Shalom executive director Brian Fishman says the pandemic has given people an even deeper appreciation for their temple community and the places where they can gather. “The pandemic has shown us how much we love being together and how hard it was not to be together,” he says. “This will allow us to be together for so many more things.”
Bloomfield Hills’ Ian Sefferman is confident the expansion will help take Shir Shalom’s preschool to the next level. He and his wife Ashley plan to bring their children, aged 5, 2 and 8 months, to the groundbreaking to see friends and see the next chapter in Shir Shalom’s story begin.
Aside from the importance of having the programming and preschool community under one roof, their excitement lies with the people, he says. “The building itself is going to be amazing, but the people who are going to build and fill this building are just the most incredible people we could find and we’re so happy to share it with them,” he explains. “Everyone will.” really enjoy.”
Dani Gillman, of Bloomfield Hills, says she’s glad to see the spiritual and educational home she chose for her family a decade ago, a place that’s also so committed to social justice and community action, thriving. It was a welcoming and inclusive place for her and her husband Ben Chutz, their son Julian, now 8, and their disabled daughter Brodie, 17. “We feel like the rabbis, the ministers, really bend over backwards to support us to make them feel welcome and to include my daughter. And we instantly fell in love with everything that the clergy stands for.”
After seeing her son Julian in two different buildings through Shir Shalom’s preschool, she says she also sees the value of centralizing the Temple’s programming. “It brings us all under one roof and creates a real home for all of Shir Shalom’s activities,” she says. “It’s an exciting time. It is an exciting thing to be a part of and we are excited to be part of a church that is forward looking and continues to grow in numbers, space and spirituality.”
In memory of June Gurwin
The campus is named in honor of Ende June and the late Robert Gurwin. June committed last year to being a major donor to the project. She had met with the temple leadership to see what needs she could meet for them, and after hearing about the construction project, she decided to make it a goal of her charitable giving.
“She was so excited to have the religious school in the same location to have a better social hall for events and a better outdoor space for events,” says her daughter Fran Grossman of Orchard Lake. “My mom thought that was a really, really good idea, and I went with it.”
Grossman hopes the project will bring the community even closer and that people will realize that even as a small community, they can do so much. The message: “You can be there, we can do great things, and everyone can help.”
The expansion comes at a time when Shir Shalom continues to grow despite a declining population in Detroit, competition from other synagogues and temples, and COVID-19, says Franklin’s Steve Ziff.
“It’s a wonderful concept that needs to be implemented,” says Ziff, who recalls hearing about Rabbi Dannel Schwartz’s plans for the early church at tennis, where they met. Ziff, who joined Schwartz’s then-fledgling community, says he’s confident the expansion will bring more programming and interaction while maintaining Shir Shalom’s signature focus on making everyone feel comfortable and included.
“I hope that the expansion will bring in more new members, whether they are people just hearing about the temple for the first time or friends of current parishioners, and that it will bring in more children in the different classes of the school,” he said.
Meanwhile, Shir Shalom President Allison Woll Parr says she looks forward to seeing everyone at the groundbreaking ceremony. “After these difficult past years, when our world can be so challenging to create that legacy and look to the future of our temple, what it means to me is to come together safely and just celebrate something positive,” she says. “It’s a station on the way to our future, which I find quite exciting.”