By Toby Rosenberg
I remember when our architects, Brigitte Shim and Howard Sutcliffe, suggested a reflecting pool as part of our building design. There were doubters. How would we keep it from freezing in the winter and what would it take to maintain? During a January visit to Toronto, Brigitte and Howard showed our building committee a variety of beautiful reflecting pools they’d designed. All of them stayed fluid through Canadian winters. The impact of these pools was profound, calming, and inspiring; the pools always put us in touch with nature. We were convinced. Bet Ha’am’s reflecting pool has been a source of inspiration and pride since its installation.
When first built, our pool was simply a rectangular basin lined with black rubber. We initially put in a few stones in it to anchor the liner. The garden and building committees felt the rubber liner was not an attractive sight under the water and so we added more stones to create the appearance of a riverbed. Back then, a team of volunteers, including some of our high school students, gathered for several evenings to wash stones, take them in a wheelbarrow to the pond, and carefully lower them in. The stones transformed the pool bottom into something that appears more natural. But they also provide a great place for algae to grow in warm weather and for decaying leaves to lodge. Diligent netting and filtering only keep a pool clean for so long. Over the years, a thick layer of silt has built up. We felt that the ten-year mark was certainly time for a thorough cleaning.
It has taken lots of team work to do this job. Staff, the garden committee, the building committee, and several volunteers have banded together to tackle the project over several weeks. First, facilities manager Chris Skidgel drained the pool. Then, using hands, scoops, shovels, buckets, determination, and ingenuity, more than a dozen volunteers removed the stones during our “rock out.”
We are not sure how many of the stones will be returned. It will be enough to make an attractive bottom while allowing for easier, regular cleaning. Henceforth, we will embark on a different care plan, adding some plants in the pool’s corners to compete with the algae. We hope to avoid murky green water during the hotter summer weeks.
By Rosh Hashanah, we will have a sparkling pool ready to receive stones during our taschlich (cast off) ceremony. During Holy Day services, you might find yourself entranced by light dancing on the ceiling, reflected from the pool’s surface. You might take time to gaze below the surface into the waters, find yourself inspired by this canvas that is yearly painted by the seasons, a reminder of God’s creating hand. I will be reminded of the remarkable teamwork this pool has inspired more than once and how that teamwork builds and reflects the community that is Bet Ha’am.
Photo: The reflecting pool seen from the garden