Jewish Spaces: Mortar, Bricks and the Internet

Posted by kmintzberg

The face of Jewish BC seems to have been in a period of transition over the last several years and continues to change today. Many older Jewish buildings have been renovated and expanded to accommodate the growing population, its changing needs, and its permanence here. Jewish architecture in BC is being modernized and increasingly integrated with new designs and better functionality throughout the province.

Introduction
Kosher Food
From the desk of Mark Gurvis
The Proposed "New Campus"
Moishe House
Diamond Foundation Centre
King David High School
Introduction

Introduction



The face of Jewish BC seems to have been in a period of transition over the last several years and continues to change today. Many older Jewish buildings have been renovated and expanded to accommodate the growing population, its changing needs, and its permanence here. Jewish architecture in BC is being modernized and increasingly integrated with new designs and better functionality throughout the province.

Open, multi-purpose spaces and eco-friendly designs are characteristic of many of the new buildings that have emerged within the past few years. These buildings also have an impact on the relationships between Jewish and non-Jewish organizations by creating shared spaces that are being utilized by a diversity of groups. Whether on university campuses, at synagogues, community centers or schools, cooperative interfaith relationships in sharing spaces are becoming more common.

 

Jewish spaces are important because they send an outward message of pride and permanence as well as fostering social connections, building relationships, and creating feelings of belonging for the community. Whether the spaces are concrete or exist only in cyberspace, they are having profound effects on BC's Jewish community.

 

Kosher Food

Kosher Food



Of note is the increased availability of kosher food in BC, and the expanding population who are choosing kosher options. Kosher has been the fastest growing ethnic food for the last 13 years in North America and accordingly; more space is being made in non-Jewish grocery stores throughout the province. For more information check out http://www.jewishmuseum.ca/taxonomy/term/479

 

Weekly Updates from Federation - "From the desk of Mark Gurvis"

Weekly Updates from Federation - "From the desk of Mark Gurvis"



The "conscious shift" towards more electronic communications in the past decade is evident in the way modern society interacts and communicates with one another. As a society we have moved from writing letters to writing emails, from calling to texting our friends, and from compiling photo albums to uploading them. It logically follows this movement that people have created online spaces to which they devote time and energy, and the Jewish Federation took notice.

"From the Desk of Mark Gurvis" is exactly what it sounds like, it is a regular update from Mark's "desk" concerning current projects, meetings or world issues that he feels are pertinent to communicate with the Jewish community. In addition to educating and informing the community about the Federation's work and the impact it is having, it is a way for Mark to "bring a little bit of Torah and Jewish learning into people's lives." It is no longer only in synagogues or community halls that people meet to discuss and contemplate Jewish issues. The Jewish community has moved into cyberspace and in doing so is extending the reach of knowledge sharing and discussions they can pursue.
 

The message has had great impact on the people it reaches. "At times of great celebration, or stress, sadness, or tragedy (e.g. the outbreak of war in Israel, the tragic loss of a community member to suicide, the passing of a significant community leader) it has given us a way to provide comfort and give voice to the emotions people are feeling at that moment. That is a powerful role for the [Jewish] Federation [of Greater Vancouver] to be able to play in the community and in people's lives.”
 

The Proposed "New Campus" on Oak Street

The Proposed "New Campus" on Oak Street



Shared community spaces encourage and facilitate relationships and social connections within a community. University campuses are a prime example of community space that is utilized for social, cultural, educational and business events and daily activities. With this in mind, redevelopment plans for Congregation Beth Israel and Vancouver Talmud Torah Elementary School are being approached from a drastically different perspective than we have seen in the past. The next project in the Jewish community that will be undertaken by Acton Ostry Architects (the same firm that designed King David High School and Diamond Foundation Centre for Jewish Campus Life) is the development of a new mixed-use "campus" along Oak Street between 26th and 28th Avenues that will be home to Congregation Beth Israel and Vancouver Talmud Torah elementary school. The proposed new design incorporates a shared community courtyard, underground parking structure and a new community office in addition to the renovations and additions that both of the individual buildings will see. The concept for this redevelopment will increase the practicality and accessibility of both the school and the synagogue and incorporate shared open courtyards between buildings in order to create a multipurpose community space that will become a central home for educational, spiritual and social aspects of the Jewish community. Congregation Beth Israel Congregation Beth Israel is nearing the end of a capital campaign that began in 2009 to raise funds for the planned redevelopment. The current building at 4350 Oak Street was originally built in 1948 and has been the home to Beth Israel congregation, USY, Kadima and Bar/Bat Mitzvah programs since that time. Already considered an anchor Jewish landmark on Oak Street, the update of the building will create a more functional and accessible space for the synagogue while preserving the oldest section as a historical BC building - a great example of the heritage conservation projects that are becoming increasingly popular in the City of Vancouver. Vancouver Talmud Torah Elementary School Vancouver Talmud Torah Elementary School was originally built in 1948 and was the first Jewish day school to have its own building in Vancouver. The preservation of a heritage building within the plans for the new school structure provides a physical symbol of the importance of remembrance and history in education and learning. The new school building will expand the available space for student enrollment and allow for continued growth of the school. Being able to provide a Jewish education to all the BC children who seek one is important to parents and staff of Talmud Torah alike.

Moishe House

Moishe House



The Moishe House project started in Oakland, California in 2006 and in less than a decade has grown into an international movement with 46 houses in 14 countries. The house in Vancouver, located on Fraser Street, places a central focus on the idea of “the home” in their programming. The "residents [of the Vancouver Moishe House] plan and host a diverse range of low-barrier religious, cultural and social events in their home." By creating a “non-institutional" Jewish space for the young adult community, Moishe House can offer the opportunity to connect with Jewish friends and experiences without the pressure of membership or specific affiliation.

Moishe House takes a four sided approach in constructing their mission, which shares a strong semblance to the missions of other Jewish organizations: they seek to repair the world, promote Jewish learning, hold Jewish celebrations and create social opportunities. The Moishe House project is reminiscent of the early days of Jewish life in BC when social programming was centered in people's homes. This unique quality is one of the things that makes it stand apart from other organizations today.

Diamond Foundation Centre for Jewish Campus Life

Diamond Foundation Centre for Jewish Campus Life



The new Diamond Foundation Centre for Jewish Campus Life at UBC, built in 2010, replaced the original building that had been the home to Hillel on campus since 1947. The new building brings along with it increased notability and presence on campus, asserting the importance of Hillel at UBC and the community's pride and support of a new generation of student leaders in Vancouver and across the province.

 As Pat Johnson puts it, this new building is the "effect, not the cause" of the amazing growth and support Hillel has seen over the last decade. This growth came after a decade of increased anti-Semitism on university campuses across North America during the 1990's that caused a mass reaction of support and political and social action amongst Jewish students. When these students wanted information and a way to combat anti-Semitic feelings on campus they turned to Hillel and their local Jewish community. The events during the 1990’s increased student’s awareness and participation with Hillel that kick-started the growth that hasn't seemed to slow ever since. This new building will allow Hillel at UBC to continue to grow and work in partnership with many other groups on campus who are also making use of the new building.

 

Hillel's updated mission statement "Distinctively Jewish, Universally Human" - a departure from the original mission statement of "Jews doing Jewish with other Jews" - echoes the sentiment of a new generation and a new era in Jewish organizations. As Pat says "the students and youth of today want to be Jewish and they want to be everything else as well.”

 Vancouver Hillel also developed houses on campuses at SFU in 2005 and at UVIC in 2006. Hillel’s home at SFU is an on-campus lounge, while UVIC Hillel finds its place in a residential home at the edge of campus. All of the Hillel houses have their own unique style and personality and the different spaces influence the activities and participation on each respective campus

 

 

King David High School

King David High School



What is known today as King David High School began in 1987 as Maimonides Secondary School. The original school held classes on the upper floor of the Schara Tzedeck synagogue and in its first year consisted of only nine Grade 8 students. Throughout the years of growth and transition Maimonides became known as Talmud Torah High School, and eventually, with the opening of the 15 million dollar building in 2005 on its present location, was renamed King David High School. Former Principal, Perry Seidelman, remembers a time when KDHS was affectionately referred to by students and teachers as "the Jewish mini school where everyone knows your name."

 As of 2011 the school had grown to an enrollment of 142 students. Building the new KDHS facility, with state of the art classrooms and labs, is a clear investment in the future of Jewish education in BC in a way that is seen by the community and the students alike.

 

King David High School focuses on providing a supportive, nurturing environment to students while also "pursuing rigorous academics." What makes KDHS unique is the dual curriculum they offer in general and Judaic studies that provides enough of a secular education for students to go on and be successful in mainstream universities, while also providing enough knowledge of Judaism to inform student's choices about involvement within the Jewish community.