Congregation Chevra Thilim, which describes itself as "San Francisco’s oldest Orthodox congregation," has launched a $4.5 million fundraising drive to renovate, partially redesign and upgrade its large sanctuary and social hall. The project also includes plans for new classrooms as well as new or upgraded chapel, library, office, kitchen and bathroom facilities.
In an announcement during Yom Kippur services yesterday, congregation vice president Jay Bakaler said 25 percent of the sum required for the project has already been raised. Major funders have promised to match donations raised by the congregation, he added. The estimated cost of the first phase the two-stage plan — renovation of the sanctuary — is $2.5 million, Bakaler said.
Last Shabbos, the synagogue unveiled a tabletop model showing proposed changes to the existing structures. At that time, Rebbetzin Chani Zarchi, coordinator of project planning, said Shabbos and Yom Tov prayer services will be held in the social hall while the sanctuary is being renovated. She said the congregation hopes to begin work as soon as possible — perhaps as early as March — to take advantage of a recent 30 percent decline in construction costs attributable to the general economic downturn.
The congregation’s rabbi, Shlomo Zarchi, and his wife Chani are adherents of the Brooklyn-based Chabad-Lubavitch chassidic sect. Congregation Chevra Thilim is not officially affiliated with Chabad, although it disseminates Chabad-Lubavitch educational materials via a link on the shul website’s home page and has introduced some Chabad customs in the liturgy.
Beth Sholom, a Conservative congregation located nearby in San Francisco’s Richmond district, completed construction of a new sanctuary building in May, 2008, at an indicated cost of $15 million.
(Disclosure: I live near Congregation Chevra Thilim and regularly attend Shabbos morning and Yom Tov services there.)