JRC Construction Diary #2

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Here’s something you don’t see too often on a construction project…

We discovered last year that the soil on our property was soft and sandy – definitely not suitable for supporting a large three story building. This necessitated the drilling of caissons: concrete pillars driven deep into the ground that will serve to stabilize the structure. Last week, we drilled the long shafts for our caissons, which needed to go down 55 feet into the earth in order to reach hard clay. The foundation surface will eventually be supported by these massive underground pillars – eighteen in all.

Just before the caisson drilling commenced, our congregation’s president, Alan Saposnik, came up with an inspired idea. Since we are constructing pillars to support our congregation, why not create eighteen symbolic “pillars” of our community – spiritual values that we could somehow connect to the physical caissons? And the fact that we would be drilling eighteen underground pillars was just perfect. Eighteen, after all, is a celebrated Jewish number: equalling “life” according to Hebrew numerology.

I took Alan’s idea to our 4th and 7th grade religious school students. I did my best to explain the concept of caissons to them, then we read a classic Jewish text from Pirke Avot (“The Chapters of the Fathers”): Rabbi Shimon the Righteous said, “the world stands on three things: study, worship and acts of lovingkindness.’ What, I asked our students, would you consider to be the eighteen “pillars” upon which our congregational community stands?

Then together we brainstormed eighteen spiritual values of our JRC community: God, Judaism, Joy, Prayer, Hope, Respect, Partnership, Song, Tikkun Olam, Community, Study, Freedom, Friendship, Spirit, Learning, Peace, Growth, and Love.

Afterwards, I wrote out the values on a separate pieces of paper and each one was placed by the construction crew into a separate caisson shaft to be mixed together with the concrete, becoming a permanent part of JRC’s support structure.

Marc Bonnivier, our construction supervisor, just LOVED the idea. He later mentioned to me his workers were so enthusiastic about it, they each jockeyed for a turn to place a paper slip into the shafts after they were drilled. Needless to say, working with JRC is turning out to be a unexpectedly unique experience for him and his entire crew.

I love the notion that these unseen but powerful pillars for our building will be a permanent support structure to our community in more ways than one.

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7 thoughts on “JRC Construction Diary #2

  1. Laurie Goldstein

    That is absolutely beautiful! Generations to come will talk about the literal and figurative 18 pillars of JRC.

    Reply
  2. Robyn Hurtig

    JRC’s leadership continues to amaze me and make me proud. What a wonderful idea Alan had and your follow up with the kids was perfect.

    Thanks for all you do.

    Reply
  3. Saba Larry

    It was wonderful to see that the construction of the new temple is a participatory experience for the entire congregation from the president to your students. I will continue to follow the ongoing saga as the new JRC emerges.

    Reply
  4. David Pinzur

    Many times we do wonderful things at JRC and don’t acknowledge and thank those involved. I would like to thank Alan and Brant for thinking up this idea and then carrying it out. Great job guys!!!!

    Reply
  5. Carol Hirsch

    I am enjoying watching our building progress as I drive by and love reading weekly updates on your blog, Rabbi Brant. What a great way of symbolizing foundation and our most basic footings, Alan and Brant.This was such a powerful way to connect kids to the new building and hopefully their Jewish community. It would have been interesting to do the same activity with pre-schoolers and post b’nai mitzvah students attending Midrasha (or not ?) to see whether the pillars would have been similar. The challenge once built will be what we do with the foundation in terms of youth involvement and creating a post b’nai mitzvah community at JRC.

    Reply
  6. Janie Winkler

    We are out of town for the winter. I love seeing and reading about the building updates. The 18 cassions idea was terrific.

    Reply
  7. Howard Ellegant

    Thanks for your Construction Diary. It adds a dimension to the project missing from traditional daily logs filled in by the contractor which list the activities (drilled 8 caissons; placed 10 yards of concrete); the weather; how many people on site; etc. Hope you can keep it up until we have our dedication. Then we should put it into a book with all of the photos being taken by lots of people!

    (Ooops. Did I just suggest publishing another book????)

    Reply

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