Ohr Shalom dedicates its restored, historic synagogue

 

Raulf Polichar at bima tells of Ohr Shalom’s restoration

By Norman Greene

Norman Greene

SAN DIEGO — Ohr Shalom Synagogue, winner of a Save Our Heritage Organization award,  held a Dedication event Sunday, June 5, to acknowledge its “Restoration of a Sacred Place Award” and to thank all those responsible for the $4.6 million restoration project.

Welcomed by Ohr Shalom’s president Al Shelden,  congregants and guests had the opportunity to tour the newly restored and refurbished 85-year-old San Diego historic site at 2512 Third Avenue and Laurel Street.

Shelden singled out members of the congregation, civic leaders and businessmen who had generously contributed their time and resources to the project, which began with an effort spearheaded by Laurel and Stan Schwartz, Donald Harrison and Lucy Goldman to have the building gain historic preservation status.

Renovation co-chairs Raulf Polichar and David Shteremberg outlined the four years of planning and the extensive work that had been done as virtually everything in the complex was rebuilt from foundations to the distinctive dome.  Both men were effusive in their thanks to their committee and the contractors, Swinerton Builders and local architects Zagrodnik and Thomas.

On hand to offer congratulations from the City was District 3 City Councilman Todd Gloria who addressed the gathering.  He emphasized the important role the building had played as a religious and cultural center for the Jewish community and a historic monument for the City.  He praised all those responsible for the building’s extensive remodeling, noting that too few other old structures around the city have been saved and so lovingly restored.

Rabbi Scott Meltzer, the congregation’s spiritual leader, offered a dedication blessing, as well as memorial prayers for those who did not live to see the completion of the massive project. Jennifer Meltzer, accompanied by Zeji Ozeri, beautifully sang several prayers in English and Hebrew that were appropriate to the occasion.

Prototypes of a plaque honoring donors responsible for the funding of the project, as well as two plaques honoring the generosity of those who contributed to the sanctuary and social hall reconstruction and refurbishment, were unveiled.  The actual plaques have yet to be installed due to production delays.

Originally built in 1925 as Temple Beth Israel,  the building was purchased by Ohr Shalom’s conservative congregation in 2002 after Congregation Beth Israel had moved to new a new campus in the University City area.   By that time, the historic structure needed to be retrofitted to withstand earthquakes and to repair the ravages of time and deferred maintenance.  It has been substantially modified and upgraded.  “Retrofitting and painstakingly enhancing this building makes a statement about the hard work, the dedication, love and talents of a large group of people,” commented Rabbi Meltzer, who noted that Congregation Beth Israel’s current Rabbi Michael Berk was in attendance.

*
Greene is a freelance writer and president of the Louis Rose Society for the Preservation of Jewish History.  He may be contacted at [email protected]

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