Now that renovations are complete for the Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center, the Arizona Jewish Historical Society will host an open house and guided tours of the center 1-4 p.m. Sunday, April 18.

An appreciation breakfast for major donors will be held that morning.

The facility is now available to rent for life-cycle events, meetings, lectures and community events, according to AJHS Executive Director Lawrence Bell.

The next step for the facility, once additional funds are raised, is the addition of a museum.

The site housed Phoenix's first synagogue, Temple Beth Israel (now Congregation Beth Israel), from 1922 to 1949, then a Chinese Baptist church and later a Mexican Baptist church.

AJHS purchased the facility in 2002 for $540,000, with plans to transform the property at 122 E. Culver St. in Phoenix into a museum, educational center, reception hall and archive. In 2006, AJHS kicked off a $4 million capital campaign; to date, AJHS has raised more than $3 million in cash and pledges, according to Bell.

Plans for the reception hall have been eliminated for now, due to a lack of funding for that part of the project, said Bell.

The first phase of construction, which included restoration and repair of the historic synagogue and classroom annex, started in June 2008.

The second phase of construction included the rehabilitation of the "rabbi's house" bungalow (now the Leverant-Firestone Conference Center), the renovation of the administration building, the interior restoration of the museum gallery rooms and all landscaping and site work.

The construction was completed in December 2009, and AJHS moved its offices into the building in January 2010. G&G Specialty Contractors was the general contractor for both phases.

Still needed is the $300,000 necessary to develop the museum. "If I had funding, the museum would be done and ready to open in a year," said Bell. However, the building wasn't designed to be a museum, Bell said. "Our primary goal has been the preservation element."

Ganymede Design Group, a local museum planning and interpretive design firm, "recently completed a preliminary vision and learning plan for visitor experiences in the center," according to Susan Shaffer Nahmias, an AJHS board member and chair of the museum committee.

AJHS is now seeking funding in order to move forward with the design, development and installation of exhibits - many of which will be interactive - in the historic classroom wing of the center, she noted.

Jewish News will publish a commemorative issue for AJHS in its April 16 issue, which will include articles about the histories of AJHS and the heritage center, profiles on the Plotkin and Cutler families, an interview with AJHS Executive Director Lawrence Bell and information about the future museum.

  • Details

  • What: Open house, guided tours
  • Who: The Arizona Jewish Historical Society
  • When: 1-4 p.m. Sunday, April 18
  • Where: Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center, 122 E. Culver St., Phoenix
  • Call: 602-241-7870

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