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Rabbi Matthew Eisenberg cuts a rope symbolically held by a younger and an older congregation member Aug. 22. The rope cutting officially opened the Temple Israel Ner Tamid’s brand-new religious school. 

Temple Israel Ner Tamid in Mayfield Heights has come a long way since its limited space forced religious school classes into its basement and laundry room.

On Aug. 22, TINT unveiled its brand-new, 6,130-square-foot religious school expansion and renovated sanctuary to the public with an open house and dedication ceremony. Over 100 community members gathered to tour the new space at 1732 Lander Road, meet with the religious school’s teachers, see the sanctuary’s top-to-bottom makeover and witness ribbon cutting and mezuzah affixment ceremonies.

“It was a very good turnout,” Rabbi Matthew Eisenberg told the Cleveland Jewish News Aug. 22. “It’s a culmination of many, many years, and the sense of satisfaction is great.”

Work on the religious school building started at the end of November 2020. A majority of the $1.2 million expansion and renovation was completed earlier in July of this year, resulting in four classrooms, an atrium, a library, offices and bathrooms.

The patio directly outside the religious school was poured just last week in mid-August, and the landscape plan promising plants, grass and water features will hopefully be completed by fall, said Mark Friedman, co-chair of TINT’s community celebration and grand reveal committee, as well as a TINT board member.

Kori Karas, a second- and third-grade instructor with TINT’s religious school, recalled a time prior to the school’s completion where she and the other 10 instructors had no choice but to find open pockets of space in TINT to instruct students – like in the social hall separated by partitions, the basement and living room.

Karas also emphasized the technological upgrades the religious school underwent. The religious school’s classrooms and library boast large screen virtual whiteboards with Zoom capability, touch screen interaction, and Microsoft and internet access. The entire temple also has widespread Wi-Fi access.

“The new space is amazing, because we actually have a real space and real classrooms,” Karas said. “We have more room to spread out, so we’re able to do more with the kids. It really makes our teaching so much easier.”

The high-tech improvements also followed into the sanctuary. The space was made to function like a television studio in order to produce high-quality streaming options, which TINT has worked to do since the onset of COVID-19.

The sanctuary features three pan, tilt and zoom cameras, and there are two portable cameras that can be used in the sanctuary, atrium or new patio. The sanctuary also features improved lighting and sound systems, as well as a hearing loop that was installed in the floor to allow for those with hearing aids to be able to hear everything better.

“Our whole goal was to make an investment in our congregation so our congregation can feel comfortable, whether they’re outside or praying in the redesigned sanctuary,” Friedman said.

As TINT educational director Edna Akrish looked around the bustling religious school and saw some of the children she’s dedicated her life to, she couldn’t help but feel inspired.

“We reminded everybody that it’s not just about the building,” Akrish told the CJN. “It’s going to be about the content inside this building, which we really put a lot of focus and effort in constructing interesting and traditional curriculum for our children, as well as using technology and our staffs’ skills.”

While completing the religious school and sanctuary renovations marked the end of a long chapter for the temple, Eisenberg looks to the never-ending book that is his beloved TINT community.

“We do not rest on our laurels,” Eisenberg said. “We have built this for the future, so now we hit the ground running and go on.”

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