The Vilna is a unique place where thousands of curious Jews and non-Jews, young and old, urban and suburban, observant and secular are today finding their own personal connection to Jewish history, identity, and culture. When we rescued the building from destruction in the 1990’s, our first priority was to stabilize this historic structure. We repaired the stained glass windows, skylights and roof, and revealed sections of the only multi-layered synagogue folk art murals in the United States.
Today, the Vilna is once again the cornerstone of a new center for Jewish life in downtown Boston. Each success has been fueled by our loyal and growing circle of supporters. By 2004, we had met our $1.5 million goal for our first capital campaign and secured the building. Since then, our organization and programs have grown and annual fundraising revenues have nearly tripled.
Despite our accomplishments thus far, our job is not done. It is urgent that we embark on the next phase of restoration and expansion to meet our growing needs and ambitions for the ‘new’ Vilna.
- We must make the building universally accessible so that everyone can participate in programs.
- We need increased space for programs.
- We must upgrade our historic building with modern systems and technology.
- We need to restore the murals before they disintegrate further and become unsalvageable, lost to history.
- We need usable, productive space to house our expanding staff.
We will fully restore the original early 20th century charm and intimacy of the landmark Vilna Shul building, upgrade its infrastructure for 21st century purposes, and create welcoming spaces for gathering, celebrating, and learning together. We will do this in three phases.
In Phase One of the renovation ($4 million), we will:
- Provide universal access to the building by adding a new daily entrance and walkway on the side of the building, and an ADA-compliant lift and restrooms.
- Expand capacity to meet growing community needs by creating:
- a Community Room for public programming with seating capacity for up to 100 people that can be subdivided for smaller meetings, exhibitions, and presentations
- a Visitor Center and a Gift Shop
- a Multi-Use Interactive Educational Classroom for learners of all ages
- a Family Room in the historic kitchen that serves as a place for small group activities and as a lounge for docents and families
- a suite of Administrative Offices for staff and volunteers
- Restore/reproduce a portion of the decorative murals in the sanctuary and historic foyer
- Install state-of-the-art audio/visual systems for use in all event spaces
- Upgrade the HVAC and humidity control systems for visitor comfort and exhibition protection
In Phase Two ($2.5 million) of the campaign, we will raise funds to complete the restoration of the remaining murals in the sanctuary.
In Phase Three ($3 million), we will focus on enhancing the educational infrastructure and establishing an endowment to secure the Vilna’s future.
NOW ALL WE NEED IS YOU.
If you are interested in making a capital gift to the Vilna, please contact Executive Director Barnet Kessel.
By the early 1900’s, Boston’s Jewish immigrants had built 42 synagogues in the West End. Today, only the Vilna survives. This is a nationally important Boston landmark, and it is our honor to celebrate its history, memory, and the promise of its future.
— Evvajean Mintz, President Emerita, the Vilna Shul