Peninsula Temple Sholom gets a face-lift, new school

“If you had 1,000 people walking through your living room every week, you’d need to replace the carpeting.”

That’s the line Diane Goldman used on her fellow congregants at Burlingame’s Peninsula Temple Sholom a while back to convince them that it was time to refurbish the sanctuary. And do a few other things.

Goldman, who served as chairperson of the beautification committee, said the 750-household congregation had been “looking tired,” and so five years ago, the Reform synagogue began raising money to refurbish it.

The S.F.-based architectural firm of Herman & Coliver left the footprint of the original synagogue intact, but added a central foyer, which changed the whole feel of the building. While the bimah was not redone, everything else in the sanctuary was, including the carpet, the lighting and the pews.

Now the pews are curved, which makes them “so much softer and congregation-friendly,” said Goldman.

In the social hall, the ceiling has been designed to look like a canopy, as a chuppah, with waves in it. The doors entering the social hall are etched with tallit. “It looks like a brand new synagogue,” said Goldman.

The Rabbi Gerald and Helen Raiskin Torah Center is also a new addition, giving the children a brand new religious school, which Goldman called “state of the art.”

The names of 207 famous Jews — everyone from Albert Einstein to Jerry Seinfeld — are etched on the school’s windows. The school is named after the congregation’s rabbi for the past 48 years, Rabbi Gerald Raiskin, and his late wife, Helen, who died in February.

“This whole thing was called the Legacy Project, and it all started because he’s going to be retiring in June 2006, and this is his legacy,” Goldman said.

Goldman, who has been overseeing meeting after meeting on the project for the past five years, will now have some extra time on her hands.

“I’m thrilled because it’s so beautiful,” she said. “You see something on paper, but to see it actually built is so exciting.”

The sanctuary and synagogue will be dedicated at Friday-night services Sept. 10, and the ribbon will be cut at the Torah Center on the first day of religious school, Sunday, Sept. 12. Then on Sunday, Sept. 19, the “Fabulous Four” — meaning Goldman, Legacy Chairperson (i.e. chief fund-raiser) Ron Sosnick, and project managers Curt Meier and Sandy Tandowsky — will be honored. For information, call the synagogue at (650) 697-2266.

Headshot of Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."