On any given Shabbat morning, Congregation Agudath Sholom (CAS) is overflowing, with strollers filling the lobby and multitudes of people coming together for davening. Agudath Sholom’s current membership of over 500 families, with more and more young families joining each year, inspired the need for restructuring the shul and starting a building renovation that would accommodate the shul’s growing needs.
The seeds of this idea were planted about six years ago when Barry Sternlicht, a longtime member of CAS, made a significant donation to refurbish the sanctuary and refresh and expand the lobby. Elissa Klapper and Harvey Kaminski, co-chairs of the first phase of the capital campaign, worked with Rabbi Daniel Cohen to identify and solicit donors to reach a point where Sternlicht’s gift was matched and expanded.
Rachel Dayan, current chair of the building committee, explained, “These donors bought into a dream since they were solicited when we still had no concrete plans. It is because of Barry and those donors that we are where we are today.”
Rabbi Cohen shared, “We are deeply gratified by the overwhelming support of our members who view the capital renovation as a unique opportunity to invest in our future. We are humbled and honored to ensure the continuity of Agudath Sholom, started over 125 years ago, with God’s help, as a beacon for an inclusive and vibrant [community] anchored in love of Torah, chesed, God, the state of Israel and humanity.”
CAS worked with Dennis Noskin, an architect from Westchester, to develop plans for the renovations and additions, all of which have been approved by the city. With construction in full swing, CAS is looking forward to a significant expansion of the lobby area and simcha room, plus the building of a new education wing. All areas of the current building will be refurbished, while plumbing and electricity will be updated. With the building expanded and updated, CAS looks forward to accommodating the variety of daily programming, plus enjoying more space for Shabbat, Yom Tov and daily davening, learning and smachot.
Dayan and her husband originally moved to Fairfield, Connecticut, to follow Dr. Dayan’s professional practice, ultimately settling in Stamford in 2011, where they joined its thriving Jewish community. In their words, “It has felt like our home ever since.”
Dayan pointed to the proximity of Stamford to New York City as a key element in the growth of its Orthodox community, as well as the fact that it is still a bit more affordable than other Orthodox communities with easy access to Manhattan. She noted, “There are people of all different ages, from all different places and backgrounds and, for the most part, they all get along. CAS encourages and supports this diversity with amazing programming.”
An innovative program instituted by the synagogue is its “Rookie With Vet Potluck Shabbat Lunch,” where people who have been living in Stamford for a long time are paired with newer members of the community for Shabbat lunch. The program enables people of many ages to get to know each other, an important goal of the CAS programming.
Current chairs of the capital campaign are Shoshana Yasgur and Howard Rothman. Executive Director of CAS Matt Feinberg has been instrumental throughout the process. The committee has a goal of 100% participation from all members, recognizing that every penny counts towards meeting their goal.
By Yvette Finkelstein