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Meet Our Staff: The Facilities Teams at JBSC and Temple

Nearly every day of the year, our two buildings are bustling with activity as our members, guests, students, clergy, and staff come together to pray, learn, engage, socialize, celebrate, or mourn. Behind the scenes — from the early morning until often late at night — is an incredible team of individuals who work hard to ensure that both Temple and the Julia Bindeman Suburban Center are always is ready for whatever the day will bring.

Under the leadership of Mohan Mistry, WHC’s Director of Engineering (who is from Tanzania), is an international group of men and women whose diverse cultural backgrounds and skills forms a rich, dynamic, and service-oriented team: Michael Aguilar, JBSC Facilities Manager (Costa Rica); Genet Araya (Ethiopia); Nelson Cevallos, (El Salvador); Dabesa Fufa (Ethiopia); Binyam Habteyes (Ethiopia); Raju Malakar (Nepal); Shiva Mali (Nepal); Blanca Mejia (El Salvador); Larry Oladipupo (Nigeria); Farrukh Rabbani (Pakistan); Eduardo Quinto (Peru); Dusan Tisma (Serbia); and Aynalem “Saba” Wildetsadik (Ethiopia).

To help you understand the vital role that this team plays for WHC, here’s an example of what a “typical” week might look like for them. From Monday through Friday, the Facilities teams clean classrooms and public spaces, set up and put away indoor and outdoor play equipment for the Early Childhood Centers (or, in the summer, Camp Keetov), arrange seating and furniture for meetings and classes, clean up spills, make repairs, unpack deliveries, move supplies, and set up refreshments.

On Fridays, the team prepares for Shabbat. If it’s a typical Friday evening, there’s a lay-led service first, which requires that they set up a room with chairs, a pulpit, prayer books, candlesticks, a Kiddush cup, and challah. For the 6:00 pm Shabbat service, they ensure prayer books are in the pews, Kiddush cups are in place, challah is baked, lights are checked, microphones are tested, live streaming is enabled, and fruit, cookies, brownies, and beverages are prepared for the oneg Shabbat following the service. Often, though, it’s not a “typical” Shabbat, so they may also be coordinating spaces for multiple services; arranging and setting tables for a Tot Shabbat family dinner; or moving furniture, preparing food, and setting up a bar for Macomb St. Shabbat’s chevruta.

On Saturdays, there’s always a Shabbat morning service to prepare for, which has many of the same requirements as a Friday night. Most Saturdays, we also have at least one B’nei Mitzvah (and sometimes several), which could mean a Kiddush luncheon, an Afternoon and Havdalah service, as well as multiple simcha celebrations, each requiring its own set-up, break-down, and clean-up.

On Sunday mornings, both Temple and JBSC come alive with hundreds of Religious School students and their teachers actively learning and engaging in nearly every part of both buildings. There are chairs to set up (and put away) in the JBSC worship space, air walls to open or close, restrooms to clean and restock, tables to wipe, and trash to remove. At least once a month, our Facilities staff will also provide support for other WHC programs, including Hunger Project food packings and Amram Scholar Series lectures.

And all of this is just a snapshot of one of their “regular” weeks! There are also many, many large-scale events and programs that our Facilities team supports. The largest of which are our High Holy Day happenings — from Rosh Hashanah Under the Stars at JBSC to Yom Kippur, which brings more than 3,000 worshippers to Temple with 200 people attending our Break Fast meal. When you come to Temple on Shabbat Hanukkah, Shabbat Purim, or Passover, it’s our Facilities staff who have set-up the tables, decorations, and “extras” in Edlavitch Hall. They also serve the platters of food and wash all of the dishes after the meals are over. Before you come to volunteer on Mitzvah Day, Sunday Stuffing, and MLK Day of Service, our Facilities staff has set up dozens of tables to support each project. They will also stay long after all the volunteers have left to clean up and ensure the meals, clothing, packages, and more are ready for the agencies who need them. Every year, the team also helps transform JBSC for the Women of WHC’s Holiday Boutique and Silent Auction, never neglecting their usual work for the ECCs and Religious School.

Each year, on average, there are also more than 130 large private events held at Temple and JBSC, including B’nei Mitzvah parties, weddings, birthdays, Quinceaneras, fundraisers, and galas. At each one, you’ll find our hard-working Facilities team.

From the daily logistics of maintaining and keeping our buildings clean to facilitating large, complex events, and everything in between, we are so grateful for our Facilities department. Their “can do” attitude and kind and respectful approach help to ensure that everyone who visits Washington Hebrew Congregation, whether at Temple or the Julia Bindeman Suburban Center, feels welcome.