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Into The Future
Mandell and Madeleine Berman to fund renovations
of Shaarey Zedek library and religious school.
Robin Schwartz I Contributing Writer
CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1
firm Neumann/Smith Architecture
drew up the plans; work is expected to
be complete before classes resume in
"Education is [Mr. Berman's] passion,"
CSZ president Mary Knoll of Bloomfield
Township said. "He has that twinkle in
his eye and an excitement about making
our synagogue as vibrant as it can be:'
Back in November, the synagogue held
a special Shabbat celebration in honor of
Berman's 96th birthday, and news of the
gift was quietly shared with congregants.
A lifelong CSZ member, Mandell "Bill"
Berman helped oversee the original
design and construction of the building
more than 50 years ago.
The Franklin businessman and philan-
thropist is a revered champion and sup-
porter of Jewish education. His contri-
butions include the Mandell L. Berman
Center at University of Michigan
Hillel, fellowships at the University
of Michigan, Brandeis University
in Massachusetts and the Jewish
Theological Seminary in New York, and
a fund for research on children with
disabilities at the Myers-JDC-Brookdale
Institute in Israel.
"We are overwhelmed by the con-
tinued kindness and generosity of Bill
Berman," added CSZ Rabbi Joseph
Krakoff. "Bill is a visionary who
throughout his life-
time has been deeply
devoted to realizing the
best in Jewish educa-
tion at every level. This
wonderful gift will
give Shaarey Zedek the
opportunity to mold a
ern, vibrant and excit-
"We are very excited to break ground
in the coming months and bring our
dreams to reality for a cutting-edge
facility that will embody the finest in
Jewish education and will incorporate
the best technology has to offer."
A 'Learning Lab'
CSZ Rabbi Aaron Starr, the synagogue's
director of education and youth, says the
newly renovated religious school will be
transformed into a learning lab based
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Rendering of a renovated hallway in the religious school wing
on experiential educa-
tion, using an informal
approach to Jewish life
and learning developed
by the Jewish camping
movement. CSZ will be
one of five synagogues
across the country
participating in a two-
year pilot program of
the William Davidson
Graduate School of Jewish Education at
the Jewish Theological Seminary called
"Through experiential educational
strategies, we hope our learners will not
only gain Jewish knowledge and develop
Jewish skills, but they will also feel the
incredible sense of joy, community and
friendship that comes from living a
Jewish life," Starr said.
Plans call for carpeted, air-condi-
tioned, 21st-century classrooms with
technology including interactive smart
boards (whiteboards that use a computer
and projector) and WiFi hookups con-
necting users to the Internet, a large,
open, inviting welcome area with seat-
ing, and several multi-use spaces.
The library will have numerous
upgrades, including a folding partition
to divide it into two additional class-
rooms, a lounge for parents and technol-
ogy including Skype for connections to
Israel. The student "drop-off" area also
will be redesigned with easier drive-up
access and more parking.
Starr says the hope is also to make
, H. 111 1 ....,
Rendering of planned upgrades to the library
Shaarey Zedek a national leader in adult
education with learning opportunities
for parents and children together, Melton
and FedEd programs, and long-distance
learning through Jerusalem's Fuchsberg
Center for Conservative Judaism.
"I'm hoping that by creating a differ-
ent kind of educational environment we
can attract more students and keep the
students we currently have," Bill Berman
explained. "My wife and I feel privileged
to be able to provide this kind of mod-
ern facility. If you look at the plans, it's
As Berman suggested, it's also hoped the
renovation will boost religious school
enrollment and membership at Shaarey
Zedek which, like most Conservative
synagogues nationally, has seen partici-
pation and membership dwindle.
According to the 2010 update of
Federation's 2005 Detroit Jewish
Population Study, CSZ's membership
dropped from 2,125 households in 1999
to 1,583 in 2010. In 2005, more than
500 children were listed as attending the
synagogue's pre- and post-b'nai mitzvah
school; in 2010 that number was 211.
"Our congregation and religious
school have certainly been affected by
the declines," Starr said. "However, in
the last several years, our young fam-
ily learning and play opportunities and
holiday and Shabbat celebrations have
brought hundreds of new children and
their families into our community:'
The synagogue even has a new slo-
gan, "Congregation Shaarey Zedek.
Meaningful Judaism. Meaningful Life,"
and soon they'll have the newest congre-
gational religious school space in town.
"We will have a wonderful, new facil-
ity that will hopefully revive everyone's
interest," said third-
and CSZ vice presi-
dent Larry Nemer of
Bloomfield Hills. "We
have 23 classrooms; we
want to take advantage
According to a
timeline compiled for
the synagogue's 150th
Zedek formed a congre-
gational Hebrew school
and opened its library
in 1934. President
Mary Knoll says with
this generous gift, the
facilities will thrive for
generations to come.
"We feel immense
pride and gratitude knowing our build-
ing will include the Berman name," she
said. "It stands for excellence in educa-
tion and passion and commitment to
synagogue life and community:'
To learn more about the religious school,
enrollment or Shaarey Zedek's other pro-
grams and services, go to www.shaareyzedek.
org or call (248) 375-5544.