With shofars blasting, Kol Shofar moves into temporary home

For the first 20 years of its existence, Congregation Kol Shofar wandered around Marin.

Members met at schools and community centers before finally finding a permanent home in Tiburon in 1984.

They will wander once more starting this week, when the synagogue begins working on a long-awaited remodel and expansion. The effort was put off for more than four years while the congregation negotiated with the neighborhood association for approval to expand.

 

Leading a processional are (from left) Rabbi Lavey Derby, the Rev. Doug Huneke, Kol Shofar member Phil Walters (holding the Torah), Rabbi Chai Levy and Pastor Barbara Rowe. photo/ted cohen

On Feb. 8, the congregation celebrated its last days in its old building on Blackfield Drive with song, dance, food and crafts. Videographers were on hand to record people’s stories of the building and volunteers made a memory quilt in honor of the congregation’s history.

 

After the celebration, about 250 members walked toward the congregation’s temporary new home, Westminster Presbyterian Church, sounding the shofar and carrying the synagogue’s four Torahs. Members of the church met the Jewish group halfway and together they walked back to the church, where a banner and 150 people greeted them warmly.

Westminster’s Rev. Doug Huneke has a long history with Kol Shofar, harkening back to the ’80s, when the synagogue first moved into its current home. On Feb. 8, he watched as children from his church ran up the street holding banners to welcome members of Kol Shofar.

“The first thing I saw when they melded together was [Rabbi] Chai Levy in tears for the beauty of it,” Huneke said. “We spent a lot of time with the children talking about welcoming the congregation and making new friends. The kids took it to heart.

“They’re the generation that will undo centuries of anti-Semitism,” he added.

Kol Shofar will have prayer services at Westminster until the expansion is completed. Construction begins this month and is expected to last 18 months. The sanctuary will be remodeled to accommodate 560 people; also planned is a new social hall, entrance and classroom space.

Westminster is an ideal place for Kol Shofar, leaders from both congregations said. Huneke noted the Christian symbols in the church are portable, which eases the logistics of hosting other faith groups.

A pulpit exchange is planned for later this year. Huneke will address Kol Shofar from the bimah on Saturday, while rabbis Levy and Lavey Derby will address the church on Sunday.

Also in the works are joint classes and co-sponsoring a Sunday shelter for the homeless, at least until the weather improves.

“Our present board felt … our church’s priority is to build relationships in the spiritual community,” Huneke said.

Rabbi Emeritus David White, who served the synagogue when it moved into its current home (formerly a school) in 1984, said the synagogue community will only be strengthened by its 18-month hiatus from a home base.

“This will force a group that’s been at home all these years to revisit what it means to be at home, and to ask what makes a home,” White said.

Kol Shofar will move its offices temporarily to Davidson Middle School, 150 Lovell Ave., San Rafael; its religious school to Kent Middle School, 250 Stadium Way, Kentfield; and prayer services to Westminster Presbyterian Church, 240 Tiburon Blvd.,Tiburon.

Construction companies are still bidding on the project, and so the total cost is not yet known, said Hagar Ben-Eliezer, Kol Shofar’s director of programming and community outreach. She said she’s still buzzing from the celebration on Feb. 8.

“It was a really unique coming together of two communities,” said Ben-Eliezer. “It was a very warm welcome.”

Staff writer Dan Pine contributed to this report.

Stacey Palevsky

Stacey Palevsky is a former J. staff writer.