Our 90-year-old home has allowed our community to flourish. But it’s time to make changes that reflect the way we use the space today. That’s why we launched the Rav Chesed Campaign.
As we sheltered in place, construction began and is now well underway.
The changes we’re making will let us:
A redesigned Hirsch Hall will be one of Ansche Chesed’s jewels. With the stage gone, smachot (celebrations) and other events will take place in spacious, comfortable surroundings. Extra-wide doors between the Hall and the adjoining Annex (gym) will create a virtually seamless area for larger events. Aesthetic improvements, upgraded sound and lighting and a renovated lobby and back walkway (loggia) will complete the picture, turning the Lower Level into a highly desirable place to host events and an important source of rental income for Ansche Chesed.
Entering the 100th Street lobby will be a completely new experience. Members and visitors will feel welcome and at home in a large, beautifully designed space with a warm and inviting atmosphere. Catching up with old friends and making new ones will be easy. So will moving through the area. With the offices now on the 5th floor, there will be room for a lounge, a coatroom and a restroom while relocating the lift will make entering and exiting the sanctuary simple. A dedicated security office will better protect our community.
The changes to the fifth floor are almost done. Our dedicated clergy and staff now have an attractive, well-designed place to work. There are comfortable private offices where our rabbis and hazzan can offer instruction and pastoral care, our executive director can manage synagogue operations and current and prospective members can meet with staff. A roomy work area gives the rest of our professional team the space they need. Soon, functional improvements will enhance Minyan M’at’s prayer space and the adjacent kosher kitchen. A multipurpose lounge, new ADA-compliant restrooms and reduced hallway noise will make the fifth floor comfortable for everyone.
Help us rediscover Ansche Chesed’s historic beauty, create a more welcoming space and bring our community closer together.
From the start, our bold vision reimagined our synagogue, our home, with new places and spaces for work, for play, for learning, for teaching, for celebration, for prayer, for community. The pandemic may have closed down much of our world, but inside Ansche Chesed, an amazing transformation is underway. Construction is in full swing and everything we envisioned is coming to life. We are opening up key spaces to make everyone feel welcome, to facilitate to the often impromptu interactions that create and strengthen friendships and to enhance the places where we celebrate, pray and work. Our building will be inviting and safe for our community and visitors.
The Rav Chesed Campaign is Ansche Chesed’s first capital campaign in 18 years. Our 90-year-old home has allowed our community to flourish to an all-time high in membership. But over the decades, critical areas have been divided into small spaces that make it harder to connect with each other, hamper the important work of our clergy and staff and obscure our historic building’s beauty. It’s time to make changes that reflect the way we use the space today.
Our historic building is a tremendous asset, but it is worn. Many of our public spaces – such as Hirsch Hall and the 100th Street lobby – are outdated and in need of significant repair. Synagogue office space was inadequate. Extensive water leakage damaged the lower level. Areas of the building must be modernized to meet current building codes.
The Rav Chesed Campaign team met with AC members and stakeholders to identify the needs of various groups and tenants. A congregation-wide study also provided insights into our synagogue’s needs and priorities. Fragmented and ill-constructed, our space has not facilitated opportunities for our members to connect and feel welcome. Our 90-year-old building needs new spaces and updating to serve current members and attract new ones.
The items prioritized by the Rav Chesed campaign are not deferred maintenance, although some are necessary to maintain the physical structure. While some improvements do address general wear and tear on the building from its use by our growing congregation, most of the planned changes are transforming the first and fifth floors. Significant upgrades to the lower level and connecting Hirsch Hall to the next door Annex (gym) are planned for summer 2022.
Working with our architects, Studio ST Architects, the Building Committee and Board of Trustees identified the most cost-effective options to help us welcome better, celebrate better, pray better and work better. Our congregation has grown nearly 40% in the last 13 years. The Campaign allows us to address our community’s most pressing needs in multiple areas of our physical space, and positions us to continue to flourish. Many of these priorities are reflected in current plans, others such as air conditioning the Sanctuary, a multi-million dollar project itself, upgrading audio equipment in the Sanctuary and Hirsch Hall, and replacement of elevators are more than the congregation can afford at this time, but are part of a longer-term vision.
Jewish ritual needs have informed design decisions. We also are mindful that many Ansche Chesed areas are multi-use spaces that require flexible designs. Post-renovation operating and maintenance costs also factor into Building Committee and Board of Trustees decisions as create spaces that are both beautiful and functional.
The new Hirsch Hall will be one of Ansche Chesed’s jewels. With the dilapidated stage gone, smachot (celebrations) and other events will take place in spacious, comfortable surroundings. Extra-wide doors between the Hall and the adjoining Annex will create a virtually seamless space – ideal for larger events. Repurposing the art room will create better access and flow to the Annex, and also will make Hirsch Hall a quieter and more pleasing space for summer and High Holiday prayer services. Renovated back walkway (loggia) will improve traffic flow and provide adequate storage. Aesthetic improvements throughout these spaces will complete the picture, turning the lower level into a highly desirable place for our members to host events, with the potential to also enhance rental income from outside sources. – Enlarged Floor Space (stage removed)
Entering the 100th Street lobby will be a completely new experience. The space will be larger and beautifully designed, with a warm and inviting atmosphere that will make members and visitors feel welcome and at home. Catching up with old friends and making new ones will be easy. So will moving through the area. With the synagogue offices now on the 5th floor, there will be room for amenities like a lounge, a coatroom and stroller parking. Relocating the lift will make getting in and out of the Sanctuary simple while renovating the Chapel will bring out the beauty of this much-loved space. A dedicated security office will better protect our community.
Work Better: Our dedicated clergy and staff deserve an attractive and efficient place to work. The new professional office suite has comfortable private offices where our rabbis and hazzan can offer instruction and pastoral counseling, our executive director can manage synagogue operations and current and prospective members can meet with staff.
Pray Better: Aesthetic and functional improvements to the Minyan M’at entrance and adjacent pantry enhance the communal experience for minyan members of all ages. More counter space improves functionality. Adding new restrooms and making changes to reduce hallway noise have created a more comfortable environment for everyone.
Like many areas of Ansche Chesed, the fifth floor will continue to be used as multi-function space. An attractive area adjacent to 5 North (Minyan M’at’s weekly prayer space) will serve as a child-friendly space for M’at kids on Shabbat and Yom Tov, and as a weekday reception area for AC’s offices. Discussions are underway about how to set up and stock the room to meet various needs throughout the week. – Professional Office Suite
In consultation with our current security consultants, enhancements to the 100th Street entrance will make the entrance more secure. Located between the entry doors and adjacent to the staircase down to Hirsch Hall, a dedicated windowed security office will enable security personnel to check IDs and screen visitors. Other enhancements include fire safety and communication measures at points throughout the building.
The floorplans and renderings, which can be viewed at https://www.anschechesed.org/rav-chesed-campaign/, reflect a conceptual re-imagining of the spaces. These views of the 100th Street lobby and Hirsch hall are not actual depictions of décor or fixtures. Some elements of the design may be adjusted based on building conditions, budget constraints, and other considerations. The rendering of the professional office suite is similar to how it looks today.
More thoughtful access and arrival points are a priority in our plan. A limited-use/limited application (LULA) elevator will replace the stair/chair lift currently on the stairs to the southeast access to the sanctuary. Access for those with special needs will be improved and traffic flow on the stairs expedited. Entry to Hirsh Hall will be streamlined for those occasions when prayer services are held there.
Purple Circle has moved to new space in the neighborhood. We continue to work closely with remaining tenants to minimize the impact of renovation work on their programs and operations.
The work began in the spring of 2021 and is taking place in stages to minimize disruption during the busiest days of the synagogue and school year. The synagogue offices were ready for occupancy in September 2021; punch list items are scheduled for completion before the end of the year. Work on the 100th Street lobby will be completed in early 2022. Renovation of Hirsch Hall and the Annex will begin late spring 2022 and be completed before the High Holidays at the end of September.
After a rigorous interview process, the Board of Trustees approved the selection of Studio ST Architects, https://studio-st.com/, led by long-time Upper West Sider Esther Sperber. Studio ST is known for providing innovative and responsible design solutions on projects ranging from synagogues and community centers to high-end apartments and low budget real-estate developments.
Interaction between and among the professional staff, clergy, lay leaders and the community at large is integral to building and sustaining a vibrant community. Our devoted, conscientious clergy and staff deserve an attractive and efficient environment where they can address our community’s needs. Ample, well-planned office space enhances staff recruitment, morale and effectiveness. Members now feel more at home in comfortable surroundings when they seek guidance and comfort, or learn with our clergy. And, once the renovation is completed, staff will make appropriate arrangements to minimize the inconvenience to AC members when they stop by to drop off or pick up something at the office.
We are pursuing this campaign to meet the needs of our thriving membership, which has grown 40% since 2003, and is more and more engaged and involved. The focus on community building impacts hundreds of current members and others — adults and children — who learn, worship and build community under our roof.
But our community is aging. Nearly 50% of the synagogue’s members are 60+ years old and only 12% are under age 45. We need to bring in younger members now, yet our building is holding us back. We want to be able to share our Jewish home with everyone who wants to enter a place where ordinary tasks become sacred deeds, where we uphold our traditions and strive to live our lives as Ansche Chesed, people who perform acts of loving kindness.
The neighborhood continues to grow – individuals and families with high incomes and different expectations are moving into the area. Empty-nesters are leaving the suburbs and returning to city life on the Upper West Side. Strong, diverse educational and cultural institutions allow Jewish life to thrive in our neighborhood. We are confident that our congregation will continue to flourish – and we are preparing strategically to meet both needs and expectations.
Mi dor l’dor / From Generation to Generation
For almost a hundred years, this building has been the spiritual home for thousands of families. We have benefitted from the foresight and generosity of prior generations, and some of today’s long-time members invested meaningful personal resources to revitalize a nearly moribund congregation forty years ago. Today, once again, we face a once-in-a-generation opportunity to assure a dynamic, inviting and safe congregation for future generations.
Implementing our vision will cost $8 million, but our construction plan is structured to reflect what we can afford while maintaining Ansche Chesed’s financial strength. Portions of the project could be delayed or scaled back if the Rav Campaign takes longer than anticipated or falls short of its goals. Clearly, the more we raise, the better we will be able to serve the congregation.
We know our target is ambitious, and we also know that, together, we can achieve it. Nearly half of the members of our community, including the entire Board of Trustees, have pledged $7.5 million. Through the generosity of your fellow members, we have raised more than 93% of our $8 million goal.
Now we need your help to push us across the finish line and make sure we have the funds to complete this once-in-a-lifetime transformation.
We pledge to you that we are going to the entire community for a meaningful contribution. We are looking for 100% participation because a limited number of generous donors are not by themselves the community. Our future can never be secure unless the full community is supportive.
Raising the remaining $550,000 will require each of us—every single member—to give, to stretch our gift to the maximum amount possible—and then to go beyond that. It’s a lot to expect. It’s also the best way, the only way, to guarantee Ansche Chesed’s future. It is how we will make sure we have the space, and spaces, to celebrate, comfort, study and pray together; to uphold traditions and perform acts of lovingkindness; and to welcome newcomers into our fold.
The goal of the Rav Chesed campaign is to have the entire community feel the pride and joy of securing our synagogue’s future. While we are grateful for significant lead gifts, there is strong emphasis on participation to the best of one’s ability. So that we can all come together as a community with a common goal.
This is a risk of which we must all be mindful. In the appeals, we are asking that gifts to the Capital Campaign be considered in the context of maintaining or enhancing congregants’ commitments to annual fundraising efforts.
As always, please consult your accountant or attorney as to how tax laws will affect you, personally. However, more generally, the following information may be helpful.
Donors age 70 ½ or older are better off to donate directly from an IRA. This is because the income is never reported to begin with and the gift counts towards the required minimum distribution. This tax benefit is the same regardless of whether or not the donor is itemizing.
All gifts to the campaign will be recognized, with the donor’s permission, on a donor wall and in publications as determined by the Campaign Steering Committee and Board of Trustees.
That’s great! Thank you! Our last capital campaign was 20 years ago, and we have never held a campaign of this magnitude. Since we are unlikely to hold another campaign for quite a while, we hope you will consider a gift from assets, or from your future giving capacity. We are a congregation that only asks for capital gifts when they are truly needed. Now is the time.
To encourage the most generous gifts, we don’t ask that you make a donation right now. We ask that you commit to a gift and to giving a portion of that gift each of the next five years, until the Campaign is finished and you’ve made your full donation. In essence, a gift can be thought of as having a multi-decade life payable over five years.
We hope that you will embrace the vision of the Rav Chesed Campaign and make a gift that is meaningful to you—and a bit of a stretch. Most importantly, we seek broad participation and welcome a gift at whatever level is comfortable for you. Click here to pledge online, or call the office to request a paper pledge form or to discuss the Campaign with Executive Director Josh Hanft, 212-865-0600 x209.