September 28, 2023 -
We have heard from many friends who are concerned how we’re doing following our April 13 Fairmount Temple fire. We want to keep you informed as we move along this journey of repair and restoration.
Below you’ll find some answers to questions we know you have. If you have other questions or concerns, please reach out to us. We’re on this journey together. If you haven’t seen videos we shared earlier in June, you can see them here: https://myemail.constantcontact.com/Videos-and-Update-from-our-Fire.html?soid=1101228249974&aid=XvgIl0WWNvk
What caused the April 13 Fire?
The fire was determined by all authorities to be an electrical fire. What occurred was entirely accidental, and there was no foul play. Together with experts, we are finalizing methods for continued fire safety and prevention year-round. We are heartened that no one was injured during what was a brief but destructive fire. Just as our Early Childhood Center faculty and Fairmount Temple staff responded quickly and appropriately to this emergency, we are reviewing our safety and security procedures for all activities happening at temple or on its grounds, to keep up a high standard of responsiveness to fire or other risks. The goal we share with all of you is that reparation and construction in our facility be carefully planned so that all of us can experience in the near future a safe, orderly and inspired re-gathering in all of the building of Fairmount Temple. But for a considerable period ahead, a significant portion of our building will shift from being a fire zone to a construction zone and will remain off-limits.
When will work begin to remediate and repair Fairmount Temple?
Remediation and reparation of Fairmount Temple’s facility after the April 13 fire has begun! Many items in the fire zone have been cleaned and restored for use in the limited portion of our building where our staff and schools now operate. Updates in the north wing are occurring now. Some Religious School and Early Childhood Center classrooms are now clergy and staff offices. The Gray Garden has been upgraded for use in communal gatherings and lifecycle events, and the Bogomolny Faigin Activity Center is being carefully reconceived and set as a prayer space. We expect in the coming days to undertake a thorough cleaning process that will enable us to re-inhabit the kitchen space.
Many more items and materials are now being sorted by Fairmount Temple staff, clergy and leadership to determine what is salvageable, and what can and must be recycled, shredded and/or disposed. Please understand: in addition to damages on the exterior of the facility, our entire server/technology room and a significant portion of the Cantor Sarah Sager Music Library are a total loss. Most of the belongings, resources, and some of the sacred items in Rabbi Nosanchuk’s office are a total loss due to severe smoke damage. Staff and clergy are determining if there are items that can be restored and become part of the collection of the Western Reserve Historical Society as they help us preserve the long history of our synagogue. Soon, all items in all of the offices will be removed and only a portion of these things will return. This step allows our construction activity to begin and includes ripping out the entire ceiling and carpeting in the entire main offices, and the replacement, restoration or reparation of most-critically-needed resources to our staff and clergy.
Also, the entire wiring for every source of power in the front of our building was destroyed or damaged in the fire. So the fire zone in our facility remains without consistent power, except for temporary generated power helping us run air purifiers and temporary lighting to assist staff’s safety and support their review of what remains in the offices. Additionally, the fire restoration and mitigation efforts on a massive scale will need to take place to rehabilitate the Mandel Sanctuary and Bonda Chapel. Considering that carpeting replacement, seating modifications, cleaning, repainting and rewiring need to be undertaken, we expect that at the earliest, we will not be able to use these sacred spaces until early in 2024. We ask your patience and your understanding that the fire zone in our Fairmount Temple facility remains off-limits and inaccessible for usage or for you to visit.
What can you do to help?
As we continue to organize our insurance claims and meet with providers best positioned to mitigate the damage, please be patient. Still, please realize: we are definitely restoring Fairmount Temple’s facility! You can look forward to ongoing updates about building restoration, even within the constraints of limited space, we at Fairmount Temple are permanently committed to nurturing love, justice, hope, joy, connection and growth.
What are Fairmount Temple’s plans for the upcoming season leading to and through the High Holy Days?
The clergy team are preparing a worship schedule for this period ahead as follows.
This Friday, June 16, we will host Shabbat services at 6:15 pm in a temporary prayer space at the Bogomolny Faigin Activity Center at Fairmount Temple. Temporary live-streaming will be available this week, even as we look to install permanent live-stream cameras in the coming weeks. We hope to regularly hold Shabbat evening services at the synagogue in either the Activity Center, Leyveld Library, or outdoors in the Gray Gardens. We are grateful for how your generous support of this year’s Friends of Fairmount annual campaign, concluding at the end of June, enabled additional resources to begin to reset these locations in temple. However, we may need to utilize other alternate locations outside of temple or other methods (such as Zoom) for some of our upcoming Shabbat or adult learning programs.
Since restoration of our facility will take time, we know that it will conflict with our traditional usage of the Fairmount Temple facility, with the numbers of people who attend Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services/programs exceeding numbers of what our temporary prayer spaces can host. Beginning the evening of August 17, the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul arises, we begin a period of self-scrutiny over our conduct during the past year, in anticipation of seeking repentance on the High Holy Days. We hope to hold both in-person and virtual adult learning programs and worship during Elul (Aug. 17-Sept. 14) that enriches your fulfillment in Jewish tradition.
In addition, our clergy has carefully reviewed your thoughtful feedback from last fall’s survey about our High Holy Days, and will take that input into consideration as we, in the coming weeks, will soon announce a location for Rosh Hashanah (Sept. 15-16) and Yom Kippur (Sept. 24-25) worship services, which cannot occur at Fairmount Temple’s facility this year.
We assure you that any alternate location for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Selichot, Sukkot or Simchat Torah will be an elegant and uplifting. Our intention during this season of Jewish life is to help each person joining us in person or virtually to be feel inspired and reflective. Any alternate location will be chosen to help facilitate that desire. But we are also seeking to be sure the environment is safe, accessible and a place that welcomes our diverse community of individuals, families, children and adults. Most of our traditional programmatic offerings will also occur at an alternate location. You can look forward to being inspired by our Yom Kippur musical meditation hour, our annual Milton and Ruth Stern & James A. Samuels Social Action Lecture, and a celebratory oneg on Rosh Hashanah and break-the-fast on Yom Kippur where Anshe Chesed Fairmount Temple worshippers can greet one another in anticipation of happy healthy 5784 ahead.
How Can You Help?
Please help us as volunteers! We particularly need ushers for the High Holy Day gatherings, or if you might be able to be a Torah reader for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur or Simchat Torah, or are willing and capable to learn special traditions, such as blowing the Shofar. Our upcoming Caring Community projects will also soon be announced so that we can each take part in conveying chesed (“lovingkindness”) to all in the community. Also, last summer we distributed as a benefit of your membership, a copy of the new High Holy Day prayer book of our Reform Jewish movement, Mishkan Ha-Nefesh, to each member family. If you haven’t received your family’s copy, visit our temple office (currently located inside the North/Religious School entrance), to receive your family’s copy and sign for having received it. Be in touch with either of us at Jsenturia@fairmounttemple.org or Rnosanchuk@fairmounttemple.org about your willingness to volunteer and we will be sure to help temple help you make the upcoming High Holy Season rich with meaning!
B’vracha – in blessing,
Robert A. Nosanchuk (pronouns: he/him) Julianna Johnston Senturia (pronouns: she/her)
Senior Rabbi Executive Director