Touro Synagogue in New Orleans is taking the holiday about temporary dwellings to kick off a capital campaign for its permanent home.
The Lifting the Sky capital campaign will start its public phase on Oct. 9, the first night of Sukkot. Rabbi Katie Bauman says that synagogue leadership decided on having the launch on this day, because of its connection to the holiday.
“The themes of Sukkot perfectly reflect the broader goals of this campaign. Sukkot is about shelter, hospitality, welcome, and sustainability, and those are the values that infuse our Lifting the Sky campaign. As we give thanks on Sunday evening for the ways that the world shelters us and we shelter each other and reflect on our connection to our surroundings, we will also be toasting the future of Touro Synagogue in which we embody and actualize those ideas.”
To ensure that future, Touro needs to begin revitalizing some parts of its historic building. The frequently-repaired roofs have served far beyond their expected lifespans and must be replaced. The HVAC systems, including humidity control, are in critical need of modernization and replacement, and there will also be other improvements to better serve all who enter the building.
Bauman said the campaign’s theme is meant to reflect more than just the bricks and mortar of the repairs and renovation, but its role as a gathering place for the community to experience the fullness of life.
“Improving this home will build on Touro’s legacy and prepare us for our bicentennial, only a few years away,” Rabbi Bauman said. “The future we see is one in which our congregation has an even stronger impact on our community, an impact driven by greater accessibility, expanded educational opportunities and programming for our congregants and guests, greater use of our beautiful communal spaces for cultural and community events, expanded social impact work, and even greater community engagement. We see a structure and community that is ready to tackle the next two hundred years.”
The congregation began in 1828 as Shangarai Cgasset, Gates of Mercy. In 1881, the congregation merged with Nefutzoth Yehudah, Dispersed of Judah, which had broken off in 1846, and they became Touro Synagogue, as Judah Touro had been a supporter of both.
The Touro building on St. Charles Avenue was designed by Emile Weil, using Byzantine and Moorish elements to reflect the congregation’s Sephardic history. The building was completed in 1909. The religious school building was added in 1928, and the modern multi-purpose building was added in 1963. The Norman Synagogue House was completed in 1989, and in 2019 the sanctuary was renovated in honor of Betty Kohn’s 95th birthday.
The event kicks off at 5 p.m. with schmoozing, noshing and drinks in the sukkah, followed by a sport presentation and video, with candle lighting and songs at 6 p.m. No solicitations will take place at the kickoff event.