BETHEL: Transforming a Detroit Gem
BETHEL: Transforming a Detroit Gem
Let's turn a historic Jewish synagogue into a modern performing arts destination, worship space, & community center!
Let's turn a historic Jewish synagogue into a modern performing arts destination, worship space, & community center! Read more
About this project
You are invited to rediscover one of Detroit’s architectural treasures with us. Behind its majestic columns, a broad dome rises above a 1600-seat sanctuary. Century-old murals evoke the immigrant’s dream, the wanderer’s journey, the elder’s wisdom. Step further into the cavernous building and discover classrooms, a kitchen, a spacious social hall, auditorium, and more. This was the beating heart of Jewish Detroit, later a thriving church, and always a source of hope and encouragement for many. We want to breathe new life into it.
The Bethel Community Transformation Center (BCTC) is a coalition of local clergy, community leaders, visionaries and builders joining forces to weave together the past and the future at BETHEL: a modern performing arts center, worship space, and community center all under one (big) roof.
We need your help to do it! We have a plan to transform this 55,000 square-foot historic Albert Kahn-designed Temple, listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982. We're building partnerships with both religious and secular groups across the metro Detroit area. Together, we can make this vision a reality. Let us share it with you…
In a Nutshell
We are raising $100,000 to kickstart the remaking of the building: this will be a years-long, multi-million dollar restoration and renovation project that will create jobs, unite our fractured faith and racial communities, and inspire hope in a better day for Detroit. Here’s what this campaign will do:
- Seal the building interior from the elements with emergency roof repairs
- Repair our elevator to make all the floors accessible
- Renovate our restrooms
- Cover our maintenance and operating costs while we seek future investment
- Retain an architecture firm specializing in historic building preservation/renovation
These immediate investments will prepare our facility for further occupancy and sustainability, maximizing the use of the entire building including the main sanctuary. These renovations will also set the stage for pursuing complete restoration!
We’ll keep you, our backers, posted as we transform the building – and each of your names will be inscribed on the donor Wall of Honor as a testament to your belief in our mission together. To keep costs down initially, we’ve already engaged hundreds of volunteers from around the country who’ve come to visit us and take part in the restoration. In fact, we’ve been engaged in this work for nearly three years already! In that time, we’ve stabilized the building by catching up on decades of deferred maintenance. This Kickstarter will prepare the space for the major overhaul ahead.
Seeds of Life
Today, the BCTC site is burgeoning with activity. Current occupancy is as follows…
- Breakers Covenant Church International: A Transformational Church active in neighborhood and community outreach
- The Casoe Group: A youth performing Arts Guild for local teenagers
- Computer Learning Center: launched in October 2016
- Phoenix Center: Asset-Based Resource Center for displaced and transitional youth
- Stage plays and performing arts
- Jewish Historical tours
- Special Shabbat services for Metro Detroit Jewish Congregations
- Lodging accommodations for volunteers and organizations with a focus community service projects and Detroit immersion retreats
The programs in our space have been made possible by the generosity of hundreds of individuals and thousands of volunteer hours by committed local community members. Now, we are going to take that to the next level…
BCTC will serve as a “meeting place” where shared resources and ideas will produce real community impact. We look forward to housing the following:
- Job resource and training services
- Counseling and mentorship programs
- Health and Wellness outreach
- Community theater events
- Cross-cultural educational initiatives and exchanges
- Shared workspace opportunities for community-centered startup businesses and organizations
- Further investment into historical tours
- Greater opportunity for neighborhood gatherings and outreach activities
- Weddings and special events
- Full use of the sanctuary for worship events, lectures, educational events, theater, and music
We envision a four-phase renovation process beginning in Summer, 2017 and covering all of the different areas of the building. This Kickstarter campaign will enable us to reach the short-term objectives stated above and transform this vision into a construction plan with an architectural firm and general contractors. Our long-term objectives are:
- Develop a complete architectural plan for the renovated building
- Complete a business plan for future utilization of the space in three components: (a) theater and event space, (b) fitness center and community co-working, educational and small business/non-profit incubation space, (c) church and auditorium space
- Secure capital investment for the entire project
- Complete construction of all phases
- Achieve self-sustainability
Phase 1: The Sanctuary
Purpose: Honor metro Detroit’s Jewish heritage, merging the sacred and the artistic in a state-of-the-art prayer and event space in the beating heart of the Motor City.
Overview: A full aesthetic restoration of the 1,600-seat historic Temple Beth El sanctuary plus a new front lobby, new climate control system, wireless digital sound system, an expanded stage and modern theatrical lighting/video projection system.
Benchmarks: Complete building inspection and fire/hazard code review, main floor pew removal, scaffolding installation, roof repair, front facade repair, front door replacement, front stairs repair, column lighting installation, front lawn landscaping, pipe repair/replacement, electrical repair/replacement, plaster repair, mural restoration, stained glass window installation, front lobby expansion, staircase and balcony repair, stage expansion, greenroom restoration, climate control installation, stage lighting installation, sound system installation, video projection system
Phase 2: Social Hall and Gymnasium
Purpose: Create a multi-purpose community gathering space for food, fun, public and private events, and recreation.
Overview: A full aesthetic restoration of the basement social hall, commercial kitchen, sub-basement gymnasium, boiler room, maintenance room, bathrooms, and community rooms plus a new elevator system, green infrastructure installation, parking lot renovation, community playground and a modern fitness room and shower/sauna/spa.
Benchmarks: Plaster repair, window replacement, pipe repair/replacement, electrical repair/replacement, sub-basement gut renovation, staircase repair, elevator repair, boiler repair/replacement, maintenance room overhaul, gymnasium installation, fitness room installation, shower/sauna/spa installation, side entrance facade restoration and upgrades, front desk installation, side door staff office restoration and upgrades
Phase 3: Auditorium
Purpose: Renovate a historic auditorium to better serve as performance space for community events.
Overview: A complete restoration of the 470-seat auditorium room, ceiling, stage, backstage, auditorium entrance, side doors, and side facade plus a new climate control system, wireless digital sound system, in-wall sound proofing, an expanded stage, modern lighting system and renovated greenrooms/clergy offices.
Benchmarks: Plaster repair, window replacement, pipe repair/replacement, electrical repair/replacement, auditorium light replacement, stage expansion, greenroom/clergy office renovation, climate control installation, stage lighting installation, sound system and soundproofing installation
Hear from Gerald McLean, Music Minister at Breakers Covenant Church International at BCTC. He believes in the possibilities and promise of transforming this space and his community – through music.
Phase 4: Community Center
Purpose: Incubate a variety of community-centered organizations, startups, and projects that will pursue revitalization and inter-group reconciliation in the larger metro Detroit community as well as provide educational opportunities for an interfaith audience, including a Detroit Jewish History museum.
Overview: A complete renovation of the 35 classroom spaces into multi-purpose commercial rental spaces, educational spaces, a Detroit Jewish History Museum, renovated bathrooms and open floor plan small business and community non-profit incubation spaces with each floor representing a different function cluster.
Benchmarks: Plaster repair, window replacement, pipe repair/replacement, electrical repair/replacement, climate control system installation, small-room mergers and gut renovation, computer lab upgrade, Jewish Museum construction, building-wide green technology infrastructure, community WiFi and high-speed wired ethernet, updated bathrooms
Listen to Ralph E. Williams II, Outreach Pastor of Breakers Covenant Church International, speak about breaking down barriers in our community in order to honor our shared legacy and the future we'll build together in this space:
A Woman on a Healing Mission
When the BCTC team first set out on this journey, we came across an amazing thing at the Rabbi Leo M. Franklin Archive at Temple Beth El: a woman who had nearly the same vision as us, 50 years earlier! Meet Dr. Marilyn Heins, now 86 years old:
Dr. Marilyn Heins and her late husband Milt Lipson raised a Jewish family in the Grosse Pointe suburb of Detroit in the 1950's. At the time, she worked as Director of Pediatrics at Detroit Receiving Hospital while her husband ran a veterinary hospital in Grosse Pointe. They were one of only a handful of Jewish families in their highly segregated neighborhood, maintained by a what would later be revealed in Time Magazine as the "Grosse Pointe Point System." Milt explains in his memoir:
Buyers got points for being black or Jewish or having swarthy skins or heavy accents. If you had too many points you never managed to find a house in any of the Grosse Pointes.
In late October of 1967, Dr. Heins wrote an impassioned letter to Rabbi Hertz, pleading with him not to move Temple Beth El to the suburbs and instead recommit to staying in Detroit by expanding the building to include a community park, social services and more. She sent the letter to the Rabbi as well as key members of the Temple leadership.
50 Years After 1967
Apostle Edwin Lindsey, who leads Breakers Covenant Church's care ministry, was on the streets of Detroit in 1967 and remembers the deep tensions. Listen to him speak about his hopes for healing and reconciliation at BCTC:
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the turbulent year 1967, when racial tensions and injustices lead to the infamous Detroit uprising. A direct consequence of this period was the accelerated white flight and deepening of the cultural divide and racial disparities. In addition, the Jewish presence in culture and service diminished as well. Today there remains only one active, free-standing Jewish synagogue in Detroit: the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue. (We're proud to have their esteemed Rabbi Ariana Silverman on our BCTC Board of Directors!)
50 years later and 12 city blocks from ground zero, BCTC is calling all people home. We will serve as a bridge between Jew and non-Jew, Christian and non-Christian, Black and White, rich and poor, East and West, urban and suburban - to foster listening, learning and reconciliation in a still-divided metropolitan area.
Reward Partner: City Kids Soup!
We're excited to partner with City Kids Soup: deliciously healthy soups assembled by youth in the heart of Detroit. Get one sent to you directly when you donate $35 to our campaign!
City Kids Soup, a creation of Central Detroit Christian Community Development, shows that kids can start and run a business. This soup is not only healthy, it helps support kids in the heart of Detroit. All soups are assembled by youth who participate in our Entrepreneurship program and a percentage of the proceeds are put right into the hands of the City Kids who assembled the soups. Learn more at CityKidsSoup.com!
Reward: Limited-Edition BCTC T-Shirt ($36)
When you pledge $36, claim this special BCTC T-Shirt and show your pride for our project:
Ahmad Malik, campaign banner photo
Jan Durecki, Rabbi Leo M. Franklin Archives, Temple Beth El
Robbie Terman, Leonard N. Simons Jewish Community Archives, Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit
Wendy Rose Bice, Executive Director, Jewish Historical Society of Michigan
Aimee Ergas, Collections Archivist for Jewish Detroit, Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University
Tyreka Mclean, Building Manager, Bethel Community Transformation Center
Gerald Mclean, Music Minister, Beth Community Transformation Center
Pastor Ralph Williams II, Breakers Covenant Church International
Rabbi Mark Miller, Senior Rabbi, Temple Beth El
Rabbi Ariana Silverman, Senior Rabbi, Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue
Apostle Edwin Lindsey, Breakers Covenant Church International
…and so many more!
Risks and challenges
We know that this restoration is a major undertaking, and will take years and hundreds of volunteers, architectural designers, paid contractors, muralists, and more to complete. We know because we've spent the last two years making steady, incremental improvements to stabilize the building and its mechanical systems after years of deferred maintenance. Thousands of people have walked through the building in that time, and hundreds have come to lend a hand, some staying for days or weeks to paint walls, clean up the grounds and cook meals for volunteers in our kitchen.
This Kickstarter campaign is only the first step on a long journey, one that we believe has already begun and must succeed for the sake of our community and our city. We aren't promising that we'll do everything in this evolving vision with this fundraiser, but we have to start somewhere. As in any construction project, delays are likely if not inevitable. We'll adapt as we go and always consult with the smartest and most able folks to rightfully preserve the historic legacy of the building even as we layer on functionality that will make the space useful for the next hundred (or more!) years of its life.
We are so grateful for your belief in our vision and for taking the first steps of this journey with us!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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