Imagine working on 2020 High Holiday plans for more than two months in advance of Rosh Hashanah. Synagogue leaders spent countless hours creating a safe and meaningful holiday experience to meet the needs of congregants during the COVID-19 pandemic. Then, on September 18, just as Rosh Hashanah was about to begin, a storm dumped over five inches of rain and rendered the parking lot completely useless.
“That was the wake-up call that confirmed that we had a drainage problem,” said Alene Jo Kaufman, Vice President of Kehillat Bet Hamidrash/Kempsville Conservative Synagogue.
Built over 30 years ago, KBH’s building had been updated over time to meet Virginia Beach city requirements. Drainage pipes were installed adjacent to the parking lot, along with cinder block barriers to protect cars from water. Yet, despite these fixes, water drainage was still a pressing problem at the building.
“Not only was it impacting the parking and the use of the grounds around the building, but we were also advised that our drainage issue could cause issues with the foundation of the building,” said Kaufman. “Our building is our largest resource and we needed to protect it.”
The Tidewater Jewish Foundation’s Community Impact Grant of $8,250 covered approximately 45% of the cost of the project. Being awarded the grant was two-fold for KBH, as they were able to fix their drainage issue and finish the project below budget.
“The grants committee recommended a second opinion,” said Kaufman. “Through Glenn Saucier from Sandler Family Campus, we were directed to a professional engineer, who advised us and the contractor on the process to alleviate the drainage issue. It looks like he was correct and we didn't need to do all of the things that were initially suggested - which saved on materials, electricity, and money.”
“The Tidewater Jewish Foundation is glad that we have an endowed Community Impact Grants process,” said Naomi Limor Sedek, President and CEO of the Tidewater Jewish Foundation. “We dedicate annual resources from the TJF Unrestricted fund as well as additional resources recommended by Donor Advised Fund holders in order to be able to respond to needs like this one.”
In FY 2021, approximately $256,000 was distributed through TJF's Community Impact Grants, with 40 grants being awarded by the TJF Board of Directors as recommended by TJF’s Grants Committee.
“We are actively having conversations to grow this fund with unrestricted legacy gifts so we will be able to help the community with innovative and start-up programming, grants for urgent capital repair, emergency grants, and for collaborative projects of importance to Jewish Tidewater,” said Sedek.
While the project took longer than expected – pandemic-related contractor employee shortages and supply chain issues contributed to delays – the results have exceeded expectations. Residential neighbors' yards no longer flood, the parking lot is now safe to use, the grounds surrounding the building are now suitable for outdoor activities, and the building itself is now protected from water damage.
“Even though our building was closed due to the pandemic, we were able to hold joyful 2021 Simchat Torah services outdoors,” said Kaufman. “We look forward to using our grounds more often for celebration and camaraderie.”