$1.2 million renovation enhances Congregation Knesset Israel — especially sanctuary

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Photo Gallery | Knesset Israel dedicates renovation

PITTSFIELD — The newly renovated sanctuary of Congregation Knesset Israel includes many features that greet those who come to worship.

Wider aisles, comfortable, circular seating, brighter lighting and craftsmanship of the woodwork all provide an inspiring backdrop for the faithful, according to Rabbi David Weiner.

But it is the Ark that houses the Torah scrolls that draws the eye, he said, enhancing the welcoming feel of the new sanctuary. The Torah contains the first five books of the Bible, God's teachings as delivered to the Jews through Moses.

"It is important to welcome anyone into the building to pray or study," he said. "The renovation project and the campaign that made it possible speak to a healthy, devoted, hopeful congregation."

After four years of planning and seven months of construction, the $1.2 million renovation was completed in late May. The aging structure was need of a major upgrade, especially to make the building more handicap accessible, according to Len Schiller, president of Knesset Israel. The 135-year-old Jewish Conservative congregation first moved into the Colt Road synagogue in 1970.

"The new outside ramp [at the side entrance], increased lighting, wider doors to the sanctuary and fully handicap accessible bathroom were all needed," Schiller said.

The project was led by EDM Architectural Associates and David J. Tierney Jr. Inc. contractors, both of Pittsfield. Presentations Gallery Ltd of Mount Vernon, N.Y., designed and furnished the sanctuary.

Schiller said he was impressed with how Tierney managed the job around the synagogue's scheduling needs.

"I must say I never found a more respectful, reliable, trustworthy and competent group," he said.

Schiller and Weiner emphasized the project was a true community effort, with more than half the congregation's 310 households contributing to the cost, along with many past members with fond memories of Knesset Israel.

The centerpiece of the sanctuary is the new Ark, located on the wall closest to Jerusalem, constructed of various exotic woods in a mosaic pattern resembling a tree.

"The Torah is sometimes referred to the Tree of Life and that led to the design of the Ark," Weiner said. "The outside is flush and straight, but open the doors and the inside is curved and you can see the Torah from wherever you sit."

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.


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