Building A New City on the Hill: Katz Family Pavilion and Shalom Garden at Stephen Wise Temple


Building A New City on the Hill: Katz Family Pavilion at Stephen Wise TempleBuilding A New City on the Hill: Katz Family Pavilion at Stephen Wise TempleOn Thanksgiving, I want to share my gratitude for Stephen Wise Temple where my family has found a spiritual home. During the recent dedication of Katz Family Pavilion and Shalom Garden, Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback asked us: “How can we adequately give thanks for the countless blessings we acknowledge today?He shared that in order to truly give thanks you need to pay it forward. “You will say “thanks” most fully with your efforts to make our world a place where everyone can feel at home, where everyone can feel loved and protected. A world built on kindness, hessed, on dignity, kavod, on love, ahavah…we’ll join together to build a world that’s just a little bit better than it was before. And that’s how we give thanks.”

VIDEODedication Ceremony of Katz Family Pavilion and Shalom Garden

Please enjoy these remarks that Leandro Tyberg shared at the dedication for the building which he helped turn from an idea into a reality.

On this hilltop…here we stand…together as a community.  Together as friends.  Together as a people who take care of…and look out for…each other.  Together as a people who recognize our obligation to make the world a better place, to repair the world, and to plant seeds in a garden that will bear fruit for the generations to come.

Like many of us here on this hilltop…my family came to Wise and found sanctuary.  My parents, Rosita and Juan, brought us to this country in 1977 from Argentina, and we became members a few years thereafter.  My sister Barbara and I were enrolled here at Wise and spent year after year on this hilltop surrounded by a community who cared for us, nurtured us, and helped lay the foundation of what would become our Jewish and moral Identity.

Leandro Tyberg speaking at dedication of Katz Family Pavilion
Leandro Tyberg speaking at dedication of Katz Family Pavilion

As a kid, under the rafters of Hershenson Hall…we played tag, drank Mitz Tapuchim, had camp sleepovers, learned Hebrew, played duck-duck-goose, did musical theater, sang songs, had our spring dances, and grew up.  Here under the rafters of Hershenson Hall, I made out with my first girlfriend.

Here on this hilltop, Barbara and I learned under the tutelage of Rabbi Zeldin, Metukah Benjamin, Cantor Lam, Rabbi Hersher and countless others. 

In fact, Rabbi Hersher officiated at my Bar Mitzvah, at my sister’s wedding, my cousins wedding…both of his weddings in fact…he was there inside my Chupah when I stomped on a cup and married my beautiful wife Lori, he was there for my daughter Francesca’s baby naming, my son Roan’s Brit Milah, for most of my family’s proudest moments…but he was also there for life-cycle events that were painful and heart rending.  He was there for me when as a kid in 5th grade here at Wise, he came to tell me that and my best friend Andy Lipin was dying, and he was there to comfort our whole class after he passed.  He has always been there for me when I needed him, as he has been there for so many of us gathered here on this hilltop.

Building A New City on the Hill: Katz Family Pavilion at Stephen Wise TempleSo when he called me 5 years ago to ask me to chair the Building Committee, it was an easy decision. 

Winston Churchill said “We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us.  As I was shaped by the hard work and dedication of those who built this community over the last 50 years, it was clear that the time had come for us to band together and form a team of people who would continue to shape this hilltop for the years to come.

Our Committee has been guided by the wisdom of Ken Ruby…who taught us the histories of the previous building committees, what it took to get us here, and what to consider as we moved forward.  We have also been inspired, led, and shepherded by our other Cte Members:  Alex Moradi, Kenneth Lee, and Benjamin Soleimani.

As a Committee, and in tremendous partnership with the Wise Board of Directors, the Wise Staff, and the Wise Clergy, we have been privileged to assemble and collaborate with people who take great pride in their work.  People who understand this is more than just a typical construction project, who respect the spirit and intent of what we wanted to shape here on this hilltop:

Building A New City on the Hill: Katz Family Pavilion at Stephen Wise TempleOur brilliant, inspired and incredibly talented architect, Michael Lehrer. Michael who can see around corners; Michael who designs places that leave an emotional effect on you; Michael who combined our history and our culture, and married that with the finest principals architecture can offer.  The word Architect comes from the Greek Archi Tekton, meaning Master Builder.  Master Builder indeed.

Michael’s team helped execute his vision, and were our key collaborators, compatriots, and sometimes conspirators, along the way = the talented and very insightful Roberto Sheinberg and Alex Clark. 

Building A New City on the Hill: Katz Family Pavilion at Stephen Wise TempleThe Shalom Garden, The Great Commons, the hard-scape and landscape has been thoughtfully and meticulously designed by the office of Mia Lehrer and Associates.  Mia Lehrer, and Matt Lysne, have helped create a serene, contemplative and joyous space, that invites you to participate, to engage, to reflect, and to be inspired.  You have left an indelible impression in our hearts and minds, and as Khalil Gibran once said “your work is your love made visible.

We’ve also been led by our detailed and tireless Construction Management team at Searock Stafford.  Led by David Stafford and Alex Grosjean.  Shaping a project of this magnitude is a tremendous feat, and their commitment, hard work and tenacity are deeply appreciated, as has been their friendship and counsel along the way.

Building A New City on the Hill: Katz Family Pavilion at Stephen Wise TempleWe’ve benefitted greatly from our partnership with Del Amo Construction, our general contractors for this project.  Passionately led by Steve Donahue, whose company worked on other projects here on this campus in the 1980’s, and who has treated this project as something very personal, and very special. 

The Del Amo team also consisted of Dennis Billings, Nancy Gutierrez, Bennet Akker, and of course Gene Postert, whom the children affectionately call “Builder Gene! Builder Gene!”   

I would like to say that they are some of the most talented, caring and amazing contractors we’ve ever worked with…I’d like to say that…but we still have a few change orders to settle up on, so I don’t want to say that publicly just yet.

And over us all, are the torch bearers, the dreamers, the idealists, the hand holders, the visionaries of Wise…that we look to for leadership, governance and guidance, as we terraformed, drilled into bed rock, and erected this art work…inside the heart of an active and vibrant campus:

Building A New City on the Hill: Katz Family Pavilion at Stephen Wise Temple
Judi, Lisa and Frank Niver at Katz Family Pavilion and Shalom Garden Dedication

Thank you to the amazing Board of Directors of Stephen Wise Temple, led by Steve Fishman, and his predecessor Glenn Sonnenberg;

It’s impossible to name everyone at Wise who contributed of their time, sweat, wit, wisdom, assistance and hard work.  All are appreciated, and no matter how large or how small your contribution, you represent the fabric of what keeps us together.

Our maintenance crews, our event coordinators, our security teams,

Our technical wizards, led by Marc Entous.

Our athletics dept. who rally under Coach Ryan Hosler

Our talented Director of Development = Jessica Lebovitz, If she hasn’t called you yet for a contribution, just wait…she will;

Our partner-in-all-things = Executive Director & COO Sharon Spira-Cushnir,

Our brilliant, tireless, passionate and loving Head of School = Tami Weiser,

And our beloved friend and guiding light = Senior Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback;

Building A New City on the Hill: Katz Family Pavilion at Stephen Wise TempleSo here we are on this hilltop,

shaped by the memories,

and in honor of,

the people who made us who we are,

secure in the knowledge that the work we do here at Wise will have a lasting impact,

on the lives of our grandparents, parents, our children,

and our children’s children. 

Here we are, shaped by the belief,

that what we have all accomplished here together,

as a community, matters. It matters very much. 

We Shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us”.


Thank you.

Building A New City on the Hill: Katz Family Pavilion at Stephen Wise Temple

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Lisa Ellen Niver

Lisa Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 102 countries on six continents. This University of Pennsylvania graduate sailed across the seas for seven years with Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Renaissance Cruises and spent three years backpacking across Asia. Discover her articles in publications from AARP: The Magazine and AAA Explorer to WIRED and Wharton Magazine, as well as her site WeSaidGoTravel. On her award nominated global podcast, Make Your Own Map, Niver has interviewed Deepak Chopra, Olympic medalists, and numerous bestselling authors, and as a journalist has been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and been a finalist twenty-two times. Named a #3 travel influencer for 2023, Niver talks travel on broadcast television at KTLA TV Los Angeles, her YouTube channel with over 2 million views, and in her memoir, Brave-ish, One Breakup, Six Continents and Feeling Fearless After Fifty.

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