Getting up the front steps at Riverhead’s Temple Israel on Northville Turnpike used to be a challenge for the elderly and those in wheelchairs.
“If they needed [to get in] we carried them,” said Richard Israel, a 25-year congregant who donated his company’s labor for a recent temple renovation project. “Or they just didn’t come … we wanted it to be available to all.”
The synagogue has also added a curved window facade to the exterior that updates the temple’s look while keeping much of its original style intact.
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“Everybody loves it,” Mr. Israel said. “It finally gives us great accessibility and it’s just beautiful and pretty and people are amazed at it.”
The renovation included an elevator on the temple’s south side that provides access to the social hall downstairs and the sanctuary upstairs. The ‘Shabbat’ elevator can be programmed to work on holy days without pressing any buttons. Under Jewish law, work is not permitted on the Sabbath, or Shabbat, which lasts from sunset on Friday through Saturday evening, and touching the buttons constitutes work, as was explained by Rabbi Bill Siemers in an earlier story.
The elevator was put into use for the first time this past Rosh Hashanah, Mr. Israel said.
A handicapped-accessible bathroom was also installed downstairs as part of the update.
The addition to the structure — which was built in 1946 — was built around the exterior wall of the original building, meaning the windows that once faced out of the sanctuary were left facing the new stairs and elevator.
Thanks to the addition’s wall of tall windows, light still reaches through to the original windows inside.
“How do we take a nice old building and not lose the character?” Mr. Israel said. “That was the challenge.”
Other congregants donated their companies’ labor to help with the addition, he said, while others grew flowers to be planted outside the new wall.
“The entire community helped us achieve our goal,” Mr. Israel said.