K’sav Sofer shul, the old shtiebel at 646 Empire Boulevard, has recently undergone a major renovation. Affectionately known as “Rabbi Mangel’s shul”, K’sav Sofer, expanded exponentially when the back lot was gut renovated and added to the existing space. The new lot added about 50% in space to the small shul, and is now used as the women’s section, which had been lacking until now.
Much needed bathrooms and washroom were built, to accommodate women and children.
“While doing the renovation,” says Tammy Holzman, who did the interior design, much of it hands-on, as well as hired manpower and oversaw the entire project, “the goal was to preserve the feeling of the familiar shtiebel which had endeared the shul to a group of veteran Chassidim. Those Chassidim continually use it every day for learning and davening. At the same time, the idea was to create a draw-in for a newer and younger crowd, in order to keep the shul alive.” The shul therefore had to look modern and up-to-date.
The biggest challenge: a very tight budget. Building was made possible through donations from the shul regulars. Nothing pricey was considered. The completed look had to be accomplished using basic materials at their cost price. Efficiency was important, too; the shul had to be easy to clean and maintain.
Regular congregants, who have been attending the shul for years and by now feel like a family, excitedly participated in the “re-birth” of the shul, either through donating or by providing sage advice.
All this was orchestrated by the irreplaceable, very devoted gabbai of the shul, R’ Zalman Raksin, (owner of “post-Mark-It”) who shouldered the very heavy load of raising and treasuring the money.
A pleasant surprise was discovered while gutting down the walls: a document was discovered behind the wooden panel, dated to 1949. Apparently, it was a letter sent to all school parents, written in Yiddish and mapping the school bus route for that particular year. The route included what is now the Park Slope neighborhood.
It was amazing to see how big Jewish Crown Heights was at the time!
The entrance to the shul was beautifully decorated with stones that were specially imported from Yerushalayim, a gift from a friend of the shul- Horav Gavriel Avichzar, head of the “המרכז לדוברי עברית”.
Baruch Hashem, the shul is now ready to open its doors to all local residents, young and old. The goal of making it look beautiful, elegant and functional was achieved with flying colors, and newcomers are more than welcome to join and enjoy the family feel, the coziness and the convenience of a prime, central location.
The shul will now be open for small simchas as well.
Layout planning, and blueprints courtesy of Mrs. Miriam Rochester, of MRochester Design, designer of the beautiful “21 Flavors” and “Welcome Home” on Kingston Avenue.
Guiding the project: R’ Eli Betesh, of BHGC Contracting.
Also: an old stenciled wall, probably 100 year old, was discovered under the paneling, from the days the basement was residential before turning to a Shul.