The historical building Beit Lorenz in Tel Aviv’s Neve Tzedek area was dedicated Wednesday evening as a center for pluralistic Jewish culture for the residents of Tel Aviv and Jaffa.
Built in 1868 by a German Templar Christian named Lorenz, the building originally functioned as a café (Café Lorenz) that attracted the likes of Israeli author and Nobel laureate S.Y. Agnon, who is famous for his work The Day Before Yesterday (T’mol Shilshom). It later housed the “Kesem” Cinema, the first movie theatre in Israel, and later served as a British officers’ club.
Architect Michal Kimmel of the Kimmel - Eshkolot Architects, experts in renovating historic buildings, carried out the meticulous renovation project of historic Beit Lorenz under the supervision of the Tel Aviv municipality. The project costs $3.2 million and covers a total renovation of the 900 square meter building and its 400 square meter inner courtyard. The first floor will be the synagogue for the Masorti Kehillat Sinai congregation. Other activities of the center will include lectures on Jewish philosophy, Jewish teacher training and kindergarten by the TALI organization, ‘Derech Ha’Avraham’ dialogue sessions for Muslims and Jews, a café, an art gallery, art workshops, Judaica shops, and more. The restoration is already in its final stage and the center is due to open in September 2010.
Dedication ceremony in Neve Tzedek (Photo: Olivia Pitusi)
Michal Artzi, Public Relations representative for the Schechter Institute described the restoration process of the old Templar building: “It’s very important that it stays the same; keeps the same look. We didn’t change much, only the inner parts… even the balconies are the same.“
The project is the vision of Rabbi Roberto Arbib of congregation Kehillat Sinai. “My idea was ready fifteen years ago. I began to plan this center where Israelis from all streams, whether secular or religious, will find a place and create a dialogue with spiritual and cultural issues within the state of Israel.” He noted the significance of the center being located in historical Neve Tzedek, a place he calls “the center of art and creativity.”
“Roberto Arbib has been running a program for many years. This facility will enable him and the Schechter Institute to reach out to a lot more people,” said president of Schechter Institute Rabbi Professor David Golinkin. “It will be a wonderful springboard for Jewish life in Tel Aviv.”
The Schechter Center for Jewish Culture - Legacy Heritage Building is located on the corner of Eilat and Chelouche streets in Neve Tzedek, Tel Aviv.