University Synagogue Undergoes Renovations
By by Alison Graham posted by Paulina Firozi
Event date: January 01, 2011
As a way of honoring its deepest traditions, the University Synagogue, a Reformed temple, has modernized its building. University Synagogue is located in Brentwood and serves the community between Beverly Hills and the ocean.
The synagogue retained the award-winning architectural firm of WWCOT for its design. The Brentwood Community Council and the Brentwood Homeowners Association provided input into the plans as they developed and the synagogue incorporated many of their suggestions into the ultimate design.
The synagogue imported Jerusalem stone from the quarries of Israel for both the interior and exterior of the building. “The stone symbolizes our connection to the land and people of Israel,” said Rabbi Morley Feinstein.
The renovation of the exterior and the interior, which has taken three years to complete, has focused on increasing the amount of space for learning and education as well as security for children of all ages. The whole project enabled University Synagogue to return classroom space to its original purpose, because so much had been taken up with offices.
The sacred space has also been recreated with a new rear wall. The former wall had broken irreparably and the new wall is designed to enhance sound while returning the congregation to a contained sacred space for worship. There is now an elaborate new library space with its own Beit Midrash, a special room for study and prayer surrounded by the sacred Jewish texts.
For the first time in 25 years, there is a Judaica shop, providing a place in Brentwood to purchase items for weddings, bar or bat mitzvah, and other rituals and festivals.
The renovations were also ecologically conscious. A beautiful xeriscape surrounds the campus and includes native California water-resistant plants such as Festuca glauca (Elijah Blue), Coprosma (Marble Queen) and trees such as Pittosporum Silver Sheen, Euphorbia and Sycamores. A new community garden was also added from which congregants bring fresh produce to local shelters.
University Synagogue sought to enlarge the vision of its founders and the new building is the result of a 26 year-old dream.
“It has signaled great change and innovation in numerous areas of the synagogue. This has not been simply a process of modernizing and improving how we look on the outside, but ultimately of changing and innovating: ourselves, our schools, and our spiritual life. Our transformation continues as we cherish the ethics of the past and innovate for the future,” said Rabbi Feinstein. “Reflecting Jewish tradition, we are open, welcoming, and hospitable and the improvements to our Synagogue now provide more security and comfort. We are grateful to the community and to the countless individuals who have done so much to bring this project into reality, the dreamers, donors, builders, leaders, and congregants of University Synagogue. We have been part of the Brentwood community for 56 years and want to continue to be good neighbors.”
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