Jewish Journal

Wise Temple to Open New Pavilion and Garden

The new Katz Family Pavilion at Stephen Wise Temple, as it appeared this summer while under construction, will be unveiled at a dedication ceremony on Nov. 5. Photo by Ryan Torok.

Stephen Wise Temple and School on Nov. 5 will unveil a new event space its leaders hope will become a premier venue for sports, cultural happenings and lifecycle events.

The $9.2 million Katz Family Pavilion and Shalom Gardens are in the first phase in the temple’s campus improvement project, launched five years ago.

Working with Lehrer Architects, the temple transformed the historic Hershenson Hall at the center of its Bel Air campus into the new pavilion. It also transformed a parking area into a park with trees and grass.

The pavilion is named for the Katz family — Ronald Katz, Dana and Todd Katz, and Kathy and Randall Katz—who have been active in the temple for decades.

“Ron is an extraordinary philanthropist, and the whole family has been generous to our community and the greater Los Angeles community,” said Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback. “We couldn’t be prouder to have their name attached to the project.”

Among the new pavilion’s striking features are its 9,500-square-foot gymnasium and multipurpose room, 1,000 square feet of athletic program offices, and a 1,000-square-foot yoga and Pilates studio. The surrounding 7,000-square-foot Shalom Gardens — created in honor of Senior Rabbi Emeritus Eli Herscher, who retired in 2015 after 40 years of service to the temple — is lined with olive trees and has arc-shaped benches and dedication pavers made of Jerusalem-stone.

“To have a facility of this size to host weddings or bar mitzvahs, with a place to park and a glatt kosher [catering] option that’s right in the heart of the city is really amazing,” Zweiback said. “The park makes you feel like you’re really out in nature on this mountaintop, with beautiful views and an olive orchard.”

Among the project’s striking architectural features are the 28-foot-tall glass doors that open onto an outdoor patio.

Among the project’s striking architectural features are the 28-foot-tall glass doors that open onto an outdoor patio.

“This is really taking advantage of the wonderful Southern California indoor-outdoor living,” Zweiback said.

Stephen Wise members Alvaro and Paola Gancman were the first family to book a private event at the pavilion — the party for their daughter Sabrina’s bat mitzvah on Dec. 9.

“Our kids grew up here at Stephen S. Wise,” Paola said. “When we saw the plans [for the pavilion], it looked so beautiful.”

Sabrina is a ballerina and the theme of the party will be “Swan Lake.”

“With those beautiful glass doors and the trees outside, it fits so well with the atmosphere that we’re trying to create,” her mother said. “I think it’s going to be beautiful.”

With a capacity of 500 people, the new pavilion easily will accommodate the Gancmans’ 300 guests. The outdoor area also can be tented to accommodate an additional 300-400 people.

Gancman said initially she was concerned because the space is a multipurpose room that can be used as a gym. “But they built it in such a way that the acoustics are wonderful,” she said. “It’s really an honor to be the first family to celebrate in this space. It’s very special in a lot of ways.”