Accessible Bima Project

Rodef Shalom Congregation's accessible bima is a reminder of what we have done, and it is also a powerful symbol of what we have yet to do. Our bima reminds us to build a community in which all may participate, a community in which all are valued, a community of people facing one another, a community in which God is at the center.

Background

In 2003, Rodef Shalom Congregation completed an ambitious building renovation project. The goals of this project included modernizing our preschool and religious school classrooms, improving handicapped access throughout the building, establishing a modern, dedicated-use library facility, and reconfiguring an existing auditorium into a versatile worship space.

The rabbis and administrative staff of Rodef Shalom Congregation committed to the goal of making the congregation fully accessible and welcoming to everyone. A Special Needs Committee, now the Inclusion Committee, was established to address the various issues faced by the disabled. Its members included professionals who work in the field of special needs, teachers, parents of children (of all ages) with a wide range of special needs, and people with disabilities themselves. Subsequently, a 2008 congregational survey revealed that approximately 20 percent of the membership identified themselves as having a “special need” that limits their ability to participate in activities within the building.

The sanctuary, designed by noted architect Henry Hornbostel, was completed in 1907 and restored in 1989. The restoration project was undertaken to repair, reinforce, and preserve the sanctuary, long recognized as one of Pittsburgh’s architectural landmarks but it remained an area that was not fully handicapped-accessible. Disabled persons could not fully participate in worship and life-cycle services in the sanctuary.

Project

The rabbis and Board of Trustees embraced removing the architectural barriers as a priority to allow participation by the disabled. This project was intended to address the sanctuary’s accessibility for all those with disabilities. The congregation retained Alan M. Dunn and Associates, architectural firm, to plan the project outlined below.  A “bima” is an elevated platform from which the service takes place. The pulpit or reading table sits on the bima.

  • A semi-circular lower bima, with a 12-inch elevation, was constructed in front of the existing upper bima.
  • A ramp on each side of the lower bima allows those with wheelchairs and walkers or those who cannot walk steps to ascend the lower bima.
  • The lower bima is connected to the upper bima with a staircase.
  • 73 seats were removed from the 1,200-seat sanctuary to accommodate this structure.
  • This design is fully compliant with the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities and was approved by Rodef Shalom Congregation’s Board of Trustees.

Schedule

The Bima Project began in November 2010 and has been completed. We will formally dedicate the new bima on Friday, April 15, 2011. Watch for details.

Words of Thanks to Our Underwriters

We thank The Jean, Lillian and Dr. Henry J. Goldstein Endowment Fund and the Charles M. Morris Charitable Trust for providing the opportunity to remove the barriers to participation for the disabled while preserving the historic integrity of our beautiful sanctuary. Your gift is welcomed now and will continue to be used and appreciated by generations to follow.