Category Archives: religion

Temple Israel: “We’ll Keep Doing Good Work”

Today — 3 days after the frightening intrusion during a luncheon program — Temple Israel president Steven Phillips issued this statement:

We at Temple Israel are grateful for the outpouring of community support we have received after this week’s incident with the intruders at our congregation.  Many of you have asked us to share our reactions to the ongoing conversation around this sad event.

Common sense tells us that 2 men do not travel from New Haven to politely read a statement to a small, private luncheon. Rather, their goal was to do exactly what they did: to create a disturbance, to distress our community, and to get themselves and their message in the press.

Steven Phillips

Steven Phillips

Our community has already paid a high price. Those attending the luncheon,  our families, and especially our children, whose safety was and must be our first concern, were made to feel unsafe in our congregation. And now, too much of the precious community resources we rely on to communicate with and connect to one another are being devoted to giving the intruders what they crave: attention.  They’ve had their 15 minutes; let’s focus on what really matters.

The police report speaks eloquently to the facts, and the court will establish its truth. The responsibility for the incident belongs solely to the intruders. The police and our staff responded magnificently and exactly as they were trained, and fortunately, there were no injuries. Now is the time to let the judicial process do its work and make certain that these 2 men, and these 2 men alone, suffer the consequences of what they did.

That is what we at Temple Israel intend to do, while we continue to make sure that our community is safe, and that we keep doing the good work that we and all our neighbors in Westport do every day.  There is no better or more principled way to respond.

Temple Intruder: “It Is An Act Of Violence Not To Yell And Scream”

Gregory Williams — one of the 2 men arrested Tuesday at Temple Israel — released this statement to local media:

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Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children; the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnal house.  We could not, so help us God, do otherwise, for we are sick at heart; our hearts give us no rest for thinking of the Land of Burning children.
– Daniel Berrigan, S.J., 1968

At around 1 p.m. on Tuesday, 12 May, my colleague, Dan Fischer, and I calmly walked into into Temple Israel, where the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces was holding a lunchtime meeting. So as to appear as non-threatening as possible, we had no bags, no literature—I had even left the small pocketknife I usually carry at home.

We were armed only with a written testimony by Nabila Abu Halima, a Palestinian woman who lives in the Gaza strip, who watched her son be murdered by the IDF during Operation Cast Lead, and who had to flee her home during last year’s Gaza massacre.

Our intention was simple: to read the statement at the FIDF’s meeting, which was hosting a brigadier general in the occupying, colonizing army that is responsible for her suffering, and the suffering of so many other indigenous Palestinian women.

Gregory Williams, author of this letter.

Gregory Williams, author of this letter.

We were there, first and foremost, because we are Jews (additionally, I am a scholar of religious ethics), and we wanted to take responsibility for the racism in our community that fuels Jewish American support for the Zionist Apartheid regime’s continued occupation of Palestinian land.

Growing up, I remember hearing my mother and grandmother telling stories about members of our family who were killed during the Holocaust. One of the lessons that I learned from those stories was the lesson of collective responsibility.

History remembers kindly those Europeans and Americans who took responsibility for the racism in their community which had bred Naziism by protecting Jewish people, by lifting up their voices, and by working to build a political resistance movement to dismantle fascism.

I entered Temple Israel on Tuesday because I feel that, as a Jew living in the United States, the time has come to take responsibility for my community. Zionism is no less racist, no less hateful, and no less violent and threatening to human life and dignity than Naziism. Like Naziism, Zionism seeks to build a nation upon an ethnocentric vision which erases the lives of people it considers “undesirable.”

When Dan and I reached the second floor of the synagogue, we told staff exactly why we were there. We said that we had come to read a statement from a Palestinian woman at the FIDF event, and that we would leave voluntarily when we were done, or when we were ordered to do so by a police officer.

Daniel Fischer was also arrested at Temple Israel.

Daniel Fischer was also arrested at Temple Israel.

The staff immediately assaulted us, and tackled us to the ground. We did not take any physical action against them. Instead, we started to read the statement that we had come to deliver and, since we were still outside the door of the meeting room, we did so loudly so that as many people would hear us as possible. The staff kicked our phones away, we began to say “Free, Free Palestine!”

Even though we had told the staff what we were doing, and had made clear that this was a nonviolent political demonstration, they turned around and, over the phone and in our hearing, filed a false police report, claiming that we were armed.  “We’re unarmed!” we said, “Tell them we are unarmed!  We are Jews coming to a synagogue!”

Because the staff (and apparently several others) filed this false police report, we are told that several schools were put on lockdown—this is one of the dangers of filing a false report or making a frivolous 911 call.

Since then, people from senators to judges to newspaper reporters have called us “violent,” “criminals,” even “terrorists.”  I ask you, who is the terrorist?  Someone who reads a statement from a Palestinian woman, or the general who helps murder that woman’s child?

What is violent, to protest that general, or to hold a public event to support her and the illegitimate armed force that she serves?  There are those who say that they felt threatened by our action.  I ask, what does it say about your community that you feel threatened by two nonviolent protesters testifying to the violence of that racist hate-ideology called Zionism?

Could this mean that your community is committed to racism and hatred?  There are those who say that they felt threatened by our volume. I respectfully submit that there are times, especially times when children are being murdered by a colonial regime and a racist ideology, when it is an act of violence not to yell and scream.

Sue Sirlin: “We Experienced What Israelis Live With Daily”

“06880” reader Sue Sirlin was in Temple Israel yesterday, when a lunch meeting was interrupted by 2 intruders.

She’s had 24 hours to reflect on those harrowing minutes. Here is her report:

Yesterday, Temple Israel hosted a “Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces” luncheon that drew 100 participants from around Fairfield County. FIDF was established in 1981 by a group of Holocaust survivors to provide for the education and well-being of those who serve in the IDF, as well as their families. Our goal was to learn how we can support the IDF, and about its vital programming to keep Israel and, consequently, the US safer.

I was one of many participants enjoying the event. We were eating, mingling and listening to a handful of speakers present their stories on the importance of protecting the liberty of Israel’s citizens. A fighter pilot spoke about his experiences flying during combat in Israel. A female sergeant and a general spoke as well. Unfortunately, the event was cut short…

FIDF

Within moments, our peaceful gathering shifted abruptly. The far doors to the Social Hall rattled, and a sizable commotion behind those glass-paneled doors ensued. Muffled shouts erupted from behind them. I saw a belligerent man violently struggle to gain access to the room. Someone restrained him from behind.

They wrestled for about 15 seconds — long enough for us to register the scene. The demonstrator shouted, “Long live Palestine! Long live the Intifada!”

The women closest to the doors reacted first, pushing themselves from the table and fleeing quickly to the other side of the hall. Then in a blurred moment, many fled from the room, myself included.

A few women gasped “Call 911!” while others cried. Many of us spontaneously consulted each other to determine where to escape. No one was certain how many men were there.

Thoughts ricocheted through our minds: Were they armed? Were they terrorists? And most importantly, where in the temple were they? As a result, we were unsure of where run or take cover. It was chaos.

Temple israel

In that surreal blur, we experienced firsthand what Israelis live with daily: the panic in a moment’s notice of something signaling danger, not knowing what might happen next. Ironically, we were there yesterday as Israel’s fellow congregants, financial supporters, loyalists — from a supposedly safe, yet empathetic, vantage point. Or so we thought.

Fortunately, the 2 intruders were not armed. They were subdued immediately by 3 brave temple staff members who reacted with great speed and strength. The police arrived within minutes of the call, and took control of the situation. And no one was injured. Thank goodness.

Yet Temple Israel and its preschool were on lockdown, as were Coleytown Middle and Coleytown Elementary Schools, Bedford Middle School, and the Unitarian Church preschool. In that hour, how many lives were shaken by these 2 radical 25-year old men?

Reflecting back on yesterday’s events, a deep anger wells up inside. During those moments we were not permitted to hear what we wanted to hear, to congregate at our FIDF event. Our liberty was limited by 2 men’s wrath.

I later learned that the FIDF speakers did continue after the police cleared the building. I wish I could have stayed to hear what they had to say. Shockingly, I later learned that one of the intruders wore a Jewish star around his neck. How could someone who identifies himself as Jewish threaten fellow Jews?

One thing is certain: My appreciation and empathy has deepened toward our Israeli friends’ needs. I will never stop supporting them, in any way possible.

Police Report On Temple Israel Confrontation; Temple Guest Thought She Might Be Killed

The Westport Police Department issued this statement this afternoon:

Today at approximately 1 p.m. the Westport Police Department received a complaint from Temple Israel about unwanted people protesting at the property. Shortly after the initial dispatch to responding units, the communications center started to receive additional calls reporting that a person had a gun. The first 2 arriving officers were able to take custody of the two individuals on the 2nd floor meeting room where staff had physically detained them.

Daniel Fischer was 1 of the 2 men arrested in the Temple Israel incident today.

Daniel Fischer was 1 of the 2 men arrested in the Temple Israel incident today.

During the initial response, Coleytown Middle School, Coleytown Elementary School, the pre-school at the Unitarian Church and the Temple Israel Nursery were put into lockdown until officers were able to clear the buildings.

No gun was located during the incident, but a witness had observed one of the men approaching with a shirt over his arm and hand which led some witnesses to believe he was carrying a gun. Westport officers were assisted by the Weston Police Department during the incident.

During the investigation it was learned that the Temple was hosting a talk with members of the Israeli Defense Force. The 2 suspects had arrived to protest the IDF. They entered the building and were confronted by staff and told to leave.

Gregory Williams was also arrested today.

Gregory Williams was also arrested today.

The 2 suspects refused and walked past staff, and attempted to enter the meeting place. Temple Israel staff had to physically prevent them from entering the meeting room.

As the 2 were detained outside the meeting room it was reported that they were shouting various statements regarding the IDF. The actions of the 2 protestors created enough concern to the attendees that several people had exited the premises in fear for their safety.

The 2 suspects claim to be college students protesting the IDF. A vehicle which witnesses reported as dropping them off has been located and the person has been identified. He will not be charged with any criminal charges.

The following individuals were arrested: Daniel Fisher and Gregory Williams. Both are 25 years old, and live in New Haven. Both have been charged with criminal trespass 1st Degree and breach of peace 2nd degree 53a-181(a)(3). They were issued $1500 bonds, and will appear May 21 at Norwalk Court.

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Meanwhile, Stephanie Bass wrote in a comment on the 1st “06880” report of the incident:

In the middle of speeches, there was a loud disturbance. I couldn’t tell how many people, but they were banging on the door to the room, yelling either “Justice for the Palestinians” or “Freedom for the Palestinians.” There were 80 women in the room. People started screaming “Get down!” and “Call 911!” Women ran to the back of the room, or ran out a back door.

The “Palestinian” ranting went on. I was waiting for the machine gun fire. First I thought, I could die today; then I thought if many people die today, I don’t want to be one of them.

Temple Israel

Temple Israel

I’d been in Israel during the ’73 war. I thought of Newtown and that movie theater in Colorado. I dove under the table. After a few minutes, the Israeli Brigadier General grabbed my hand. She said it was okay to come out; personnel at the temple had subdued the men.

This did not feel like political protest. This felt like terrorism.

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Temple Israel president Steven Phillips added these thoughts, in an email to members:

As some of you may have heard, an incident occurred at Temple Israel as our congregation was hosting a luncheon for Friends of the Israel Defense Forces.  At no time was any one in physical danger.

Two unarmed young men appeared at the door and noisily attempted to gain entry to the luncheon and disrupt its proceedings. Their intent appears to have been to protest and create a disturbance. They were confronted by executive director Lisa Goldberg, then detained by director of member engagement Bryan Bierman, Cantor Dan Sklar and Rabbi P.J. Schwartz, and others. The Westport Police Department was called and officers responded immediately.

The 2 men are now in police custody. A thorough search of the intruders, our building and our grounds by police found no weapons of any kind. To ensure our safety, the police will remain at Temple Israel and maintain a presence throughout the rest of today and into tomorrow.

The police have advised us that we can safely continue with our day as planned.  We will therefore hold our scheduled religious school classes, TI High, Confirmation and any programming we have planned for this evening.

Westport PoliceOf course, we will continue to follow up with the police as they look into this matter. We believe that the response of our staff and Westport Police Department was exemplary. As we learn more about this incident, we will continue to work with the Westport Police Department to ensure that our security procedures keep everyone safe. In the meantime, if you have questions, please feel free to email me or to contact the Temple office.

These incidents are always extremely disturbing. Fortunately, no one was in danger. I would like to thank the staff and the police for the poise and professionalism with which they handled the situation. We are very lucky to be served by them both.

UPDATE: Temple Israel Threat Ends; Lockdown Ends At Coleytown

Earlier today, Westport police were called to Temple Israel. Preliminary reports say there were concerns about 1 or 2 people with weapons. Apparently, none were found.

The temple was the site today of a “Friends of the Israel Defense Forces Women’s Luncheon.” IDF officers — including an Israeli Air Force captain — were to discuss the roles of women in that country’s military. It appears that 1 or 2 people planned to disrupt the event.

Nearby Coleytown Middle School was locked down as a precaution.

Coleytown Middle School principal Kris Szabo sent this message to parents:

This afternoon our school was in lockdown for 45 minutes at the request of the Westport Police Department for an external threat at Temple Israel.  All ended well and our students returned to Homeroom where they were given an opportunity to debrief and ask questions. We thank the Westport Police Department for its immediate reaction and concern for the safety of all our children.

Temple israel

#White Lives Matter: Yes, The Flyers Are Racist

The discovery Thursday morning of anonymous flyers — saying only “#White Lives Matter” — disturbed Westporters in the Compo Beach and Roseville Road areas.

The reaction to yesterday’s “06880” story was mixed. Some commenters were stunned, ashamed, appalled and angry.

Flyers like these were tossed onto lawns in Westport early Thursday morning.

Flyers like these were tossed onto lawns in Westport early Thursday morning.

Others complained of an over-reaction. “All lives matter,” they noted. They said this was political correctness run amok, and wondered why anyone assumed the flyer was “racist.”

As the story reported, similar flyers were distributed equally anonymously — in Ziploc bags, weighted with pebbles — in Milford a few days earlier.

There was one difference. While the Westport flyers said only “#White Lives Matter,” the Milford flyers included more text. They said:

America is under attack. This fact has been known for some time. Each year, we the American people lose more rights. Each election we get sold out and stabbed in the back. Between misfits robbing us and the government taxing us, we the honest hardworking Americans are barely getting by. Tired of being tired, and sick of being sick, Americans united in 1987 to form The Nationalist Movement. And ever since, it has served the American people proudly.

While other groups pop up only to vanish, The Nationalist Movement continues striding to unify the American people and liberate us from the communist regime that is currently occupying our White House and Congress Halls. The American people have been shackled with chains of “equality”, beaten bloody with the whip of “diversity”, and forced to bow a knee before the tyrants ruining our homeland.

However, Americans all across this sacred nation are arising, to make a difference. This exclusive organization carries the Red, White, and Blue with the same pride that our fore fathers did. And in doing so, we vow to never let the Amrican [sic]  dream perish.

There was a link for the Nationalist Movement website. The site shows photos of a flag that looks like a cross between a cross and a swastika.

Nationalist Movement

On the home page, there is a link to “Racist America Radio.”

This Radio show is for activists, not those who are lukewarm, sell outs, or inactive keyboard commando’s [sic]. This is real life activism, in the public, without police protection. We are friends to only the truly sincere devotees of freedom. We stand with only the true zealots for our people.

So yeah, there is a racist element to the flyers.

Perhaps the Westport flyers were just a juvenile, copycat attempt?

Probably not. Both flyers used the exact same typeface and 3-line style.

The Westport (left) and Milford (right) flyers.

The Westport (left) and Milford (right) flyers.

Meanwhile, Westporters swung into action.

Yesterday afternoon, representatives from TEAM Westport, houses of worship, Staples High School, the Westport library, the town Social Services department, and community members gathered at the Saugatuck Church to frame a response.

They are drafting a joint statement. They’re organizing a community conversation at the library (Sunday, May 17, 4 p.m.). Additional steps will follow.

Clergy have been encouraged to speak about the incident in services this weekend.

They’re also compiling a webpage of resources — blog entries, videos, podcasts, etc. — to provide history and context for the #BlackLivesMatter movement.

More will follow.

All lives matter. Including those that stand up against vile, offensive, and very racist behavior.

(Hat tip: Dan Donovan)

Rev. Haffner: A Washington Witness For Same-Sex Marriage

As president of the Religious Institute — the Westport-based organization that advocates nationally for sexual health, education, and justice in faith communities and society — Rev. Debra Haffner has done plenty to advance the cause of same-sex marriage.

Religious Institute logoShe helped gather signatures of 1,900 faith leaders on a friend-of-the-court brief, aimed at countering religious arguments against same-sex marriage prior to today’s Supreme Court hearing on 4 related cases.

She helped organize last Saturday and Sunday’s National Weekend of Prayer for the Freedom to Marry. More than 315 congregations from 46 states participated in responsive readings and prayers for “the wisdom of justices, the skills of attorneys and the well-being of plaintiffs” in the days ahead.

A scene from Sunday's prayer service at the National City Church in Washington, DC.

A scene from Sunday’s prayer service at the National City Church in Washington, DC.

On Sunday, the Religious Institute co-sponsored a prayer service at Washington’s National City Christian Church.

Rev. Haffner — who also serves as community minister at Westport’s Unitarian Church — was a worship leader at Sunday’s service. She was very moved — but there was more to come. She stayed in Washington 2 more days. “I wanted to witness history,” she says.

This morning she joined a faith rally at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation, 6 blocks from the Supreme Court.

She and hundreds of others then marched to the Court itself.

Rev. Haffner has been to the Supreme Court twice in the past 2 years. Those cases were huge: Windsor, which advanced the right to same-sex marriage, and Hobby Lobby, in which the justices ruled that a business can choose to be exempt from a law its owners religiously object to.

Today, Rev. Haffner says, the crowds were much bigger. “There was a small band of ‘antis,’ with pretty disgusting signs,” she says. “But we outnumbered them 10 to 1.”

Rev. Debra Haffner and Rev. Yvette Flunder, founder of a multi-denominational fellowship of 56 primarily African American churches.

Rev. Debra Haffner and Rev. Yvette Flunder, founder of a multi-denominational fellowship of 56 primarily African American churches.

The Supreme Court heard 2 1/2 hours of arguments — an exceptionally long time. Throughout the morning, Rev. Haffner and others stood outside. “There was some singing,” she says. “But mostly, witnessing.”

She wore her clerical collar and stole. “So many people came by and thanked us for our witness,” she says.

On the train back to Westport, she read expert analyses of the arguments.

“It sounds like less of a slam-dunk than we thought,” she says. “Justice Kennedy — the swing vote — seemed to be unreadable.

“But I think this is a decision whose time has come. It’s time to ratify what a majority of people across the country already know: that everyone deserves the right to marry.”

The justices will rule in June.

Rev. Debra Haffner and Harry Knox. He is the president and CEO of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

Rev. Debra Haffner and Harry Knox. He is the president and CEO of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.

Searching For St. Anthony

It’s one thing to lose a fountain.

It’s another thing entirely to lose a saint.

St. Anthony — the symbol of Saugatuck and, ironically, the patron saint of finding things or lost people — is gone.

For decades St. Anthony’s Hall was the social heart of that strong Italian neighborhood. Located at 37 Franklin Street — the once-vibrant one-way road connecting Charles Street with Saugatuck Avenue, now overshadowed by I-95 high above — the meeting place of the St. Anthony’s Society was the go-to place for weddings, anniversaries, and all kinds of other gatherings.

The former St. Anthony Hall on Franklin Street. (Photos/Google Maps)

The former St. Anthony Hall on Franklin Street. (Photos/Google Maps)

And for decades, a statue of St. Anthony watched over Saugatuck, from an honored alcove above the front door.

St. Anthony, in the alcove.

St. Anthony, in the alcove.

The photos above are from last August.

But now, St. Anthony is gone.

Robert Mitchell noticed the missing saint the other day. He leads walking tours of Saugatuck for the Westport Historical Society (the next one is Saturday, April 18).

He was surprised to see it gone. So were many other Westporters.

Thanks to Cathy Romano, who works at Assumption Church — more on that later — I learned that Chris Anderson bought the former St. Anthony’s Hall building last July, for $1.2 million.

Chris has lived in Westport for 14 years. His wife is Italian. As he began renovating 37 Franklin Street for his business — In-Store Experience, a design and advertising firm — he planned to save the statue.

37 Franklin Street, after renovations.

37 Franklin Street, after renovations.

But when the contractor went to remove it, Chris said, “it disintegrated.” It was too old, and had just sat there — in the alcove — since God knows when.

The contractor knew what the statue meant to Chris. He gave him a replica of it.

And Chris knows what the statue — and all of St. Anthony’s Hall — meant to Saugatuck.

He plans to display a plaque honoring the site in his lobby. He’d like photos too. But he doesn’t know how to get them.

That’s where “06880” comes in. If you’ve got pictures — or any other memorabilia — from St. Anthony’s Hall, or the annual Feast, email canderson@instoreexperience.com.

I can’t speak for Chris. But it can’t hurt to send anything from the entire area, right?

This photo of Franklin Street might be good for the new lobby. It shows the original Arrow restaurant. The restaurant got its name from the "arrow" shape of the Saugatuck Avenue/Franklin Street intersection.

This photo of the original Arrow Restaurant might work in the new lobby. The name came from the “arrow” shape of the Franklin Street/Saugatuck Avenue intersection.

PS: About Assumption.

One of the great traditions of St. Anthony’s Hall was an annual feast. Before it died out in the 1950s — around the time the highway came through — there were games, food, and a parade during which a statue of St. Anthony was carried down the street.*

You can still see that statue. It was donated to Assumption Church. Today it sits proudly inside the church.

(Hat tip: Loretta Hallock)

*In 1984, the Feast of St. Anthony was resurrected as Festival Italiano. It thrived for 27 years, until 2011.

St. Anthony's statue, just inside the back entrance of Assumption Church.

St. Anthony’s statue, just inside the back entrance of Assumption Church.

Jalna Jaeger’s Happy Easter Egg Tree

Jalna Jaeger always knew about Ostereierbaum — the German tradition of decorating trees and bushes with Easter eggs.

Eight years ago, the 1971 Staples High School graduate decorated a tree on her Norwalk property: 3 East Avenue, not far from Stew Leonard’s.

She had a few hundred eggs. But it’s a large tree, and it needed more.

Jalna googled “egg tree.” She saw a German tree, with real eggs. Lots of them — 10,000, in fact.

Jalna ordered 800 eggs online. It took a long time to string them. But she loved the vibrant, colorful look.

Jalna Jaeger's egg tree, on Thursday.

Jalna Jaeger’s egg tree, on Thursday.

Every year, Jalna adds eggs. This year, there are 100 more.

Her entire family helps. Her husband holds the ladder. She climbs. Now she needs a higher ladder.

East Avenue is a very public street. People often stop and thank Jalna for her tree. They say it cheers them up. The tree has even gotten some fan mail.

Today, hundreds of crocuses are blooming under the tree. It’s a perfect way for everyone — of all faiths, or none – to celebrate Easter, and the arrival of spring.

Chabad Grows Into Its New Home

Three years ago, Chabad Lubavitch of Westport bought the old, abandoned Three Bears Restaurant. An “06880” story — including neighbors’ complaints of renovation work done prior to the permitting process — drew a record 217 comments.

Three years later, Chabad is preparing a moderate expansion plan. All is going smoothly — so well, in fact, that neighbors are ready to toast “L’chaim!”

Chabad Lubavitch's home -- formerly the Three Bears, as seen from Newtown Turnpike.

Chabad Lubavitch’s home — the old Three Bears, as seen from Newtown Turnpike.

Though it’s called “Chabad of Westport,” the local branch of the international group serves Weston, Wilton and Norwalk too. The old Three Bears property — at the intersection of Wilton Road and Newtown Turnpike — is centrally located for all 4 towns.

It was Chabad’s 1st true local home. The organization — whose aim is to enhance Jewish life through programs, social services and worship — had rented a variety of sites for 18 years, including Ketchum Street, the Westport Woman’s Club and Camp Mahackeno.

Chabad has flourished. It runs a religious school, teen and adult programs, and a summer camp (at Coleytown Elementary School). Recently, they hosted a festive Purim party.

Another view of Chabad, looking toward Wilton Road.

Another view of Chabad, looking toward Wilton Road.

The new addition will enhance Chabad’s services — and the neighborhood — say Rabbi Yehudah Leib Kantor and Peter Greenberg (a Chabad member and partner in Able Construction, who is doing the project at cost). The architect is Robert Storm.

The historic nature of the building — including, importantly, its street-facing facade — will be protected. New construction will be in “the New England vernacular” — fieldstone and shingles — blending in with what’s already there.

The additions and renovations — enlarging the current 9,000 square feet by 4,000 more — will take place in the back. A new 300-person sanctuary will double as a function hall for holiday events, and bar and bat mitzvahs (right now, Chabad rents the Westport Woman’s Club.) The religious school will be housed in the lower level.

A rendering of the addition.

A rendering of the addition, as seen from Newtown Turnpike.

Also planned: a new lobby, kitchen and elevator. The interior of the existing building will be “freshened up,” Greenberg says.

The 100-car parking lot entrance closest to Wilton Road has been closed. That should ease traffic by the light.

The back of the parking lot, meanwhile, will be raised slightly, to protect nearby wetlands.

Another rendering -- parking lot view.

Another rendering — parking lot view.

Chabad has already presented plans to Westport’s Flood and Erosion Control Board. Ahead are more panels, including Conservation, and Planning & Zoning.

A variance for coverage will be needed from the Zoning Board of Appeals. This is routine, Greenberg says, for nearly every church, synagogue, school and commercial property.

“This is a community project,” the rabbi notes. Funding comes entirely from area residents. Feedback from neighbors has been very positive, he and Greenberg say.

Chabad hopes for approvals within 3 to 4 months, with construction completed by next spring.

From their lips to you-know-who’s ears.