Jewish congregations gather at Davenport location – New Haven Register

Posted By on June 21, 2021

DAVENPORT, Iowa (AP) The congregations of Temple Emanuel, Davenport, and the Tri-City Jewish Center, Rock Island, are leaving their respective buildings and moving to a new, single location on Davenports East Kimberly Road to pool resources and make each stronger.

The new space will be called Beit Shalom Jewish Community, meaning house of peace, and it is being created in an existing building originally constructed as a Ryans Family Steak House, later a Mel Foster Co. office. Leaders hope it will be ready by early September in time for the Jewish High Holy Days.

The Quad-City Times reports the reason for the historic move is that both congregations have experienced declining membership, and more than five years ago, leaders of the Tri-City Center realized that their building, constructed in 1981, had become bigger than they needed and was no longer centrally located to its members, Steve Geifman, president of the new community, explained. The center began exploring options and talking with leaders of Temple Emanuel.

Earlier this year the two reached a sharing agreement in which they each will maintain their own identity, board of trustees and prayer books and services, but will share space and a rabbi, Rabbi Linda Bertenthal, who will serve as rabbi to both, said.

Temple Emanuel was founded in 1861, is the oldest Jewish congregation in Iowa and is a Reform congregation. The Tri-City Jewish Center, founded in 1936, is a Conservative, or Traditional, congregation that, in 1950 and 1968, took into its fold two Orthodox congregations founded in Rock Island in the early 1900s.

The congregations expect that by pooling their resources that they will become stronger and more vital, creating the kind of critical mass that makes worship and celebrations more meaningful, Rabbi Bertenthal said.

Together, Beit Shalom will have about 180 member families, making the new, 11,000-square-foot location just the right size, Geifman said. By comparison, it is about the same size as Temple Emanuel, while the Tri-City center is about 30,000 square feet.

The Beit Shalom location at 2215 E. Kimberly Road, just west of the intersection with Jersey Ridge Road, was built in 1992. When the steak house closed, the building was briefly occupied by Bishops Buffet, then was purchased by Mel Foster Co. as a headquarters, but has been vacant for at least five years.

The building was purchased for $685,000 in December 2019, according to Scott County Assessor records, and it is being gutted and reconstructed by Russell Construction Co. About $1.4 million will go into rehabbing the 10,000-square-foot space, according to building permit records on the county assessor website.

We did it, Geifman said one recent morning, leading a construction tour of the building. Its working. Were really excited.

The front door will open to a foyer with a mosaic Tree of Life on the floor that will merge into Trees of Life on the walls, brought from both synagogues. The sanctuary will be straight ahead in the middle of the building, flanked by equal spaces that can be opened or closed as needed to form separate rooms or create a bigger sanctuary. The area, located on the northeast corner of the building, will be flooded with light from existing windows.

Classrooms will be built on the south, opening to a patio. There will be a kosher-style kitchen, available for events and catering; a library that can double as a small chapel; offices, and a room with video equipment so that events, meetings or services such as funerals can be live-streamed to people who cannot attend in person.

There also will be space for both congregations memorabilia, Geifman said.

Religious and historic objects will be removed from their respective homes and incorporated into the new space, including three ner tamids, or Eternal Lights, that are always lighted to symbolize Gods eternal presence. Also being brought over are the oversized doors and Ten Commandments from the Rock Island synagogue, stained glass windows from Temple Emanuel, and the arks of the law, or cabinets, that enshrine the sacred Torah scrolls used for public worship, Geifman said.

The building also will be home to the Jewish Federation of the Quad-Cities, a nonprofit organization formed in 1980 to provide social services to the Jewish community, especially senior citizens and children, and to be the voice of the Jewish community to the Quad-Cities at large. One of the smallest of 155 Jewish Federations in North America, it has been located in the Tri-City center.

The new location is not blessed with the park-like setting of the Tri-City center, with its many trees and stream, but landscaping is part of the plan and, overall, the building was right-sized for both communities, Geifman said. It also has 180 parking slots, something that would be hard to find elsewhere in the middle of town, he said.

Although the Beit Shalom site might not be 100% completed by Sept. 6-16, the time of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, Geifman expects it to be far enough along for observance.

In bringing the Jewish community together, I feel great optimism and joy, Rabbi Bertenthal said. I think it will strengthen both congregations and the community in general.

Geifman agrees. While some might regard the change as downsizing, in reality, it makes us stronger, he said.

Our membership is excited. It is the best thing and at the right time.

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Jewish congregations gather at Davenport location - New Haven Register

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