Exciting Year Ahead For Rifkin Campus at 5200

The signs of progress are all around at the Rifkin Campus at 5200 as we prepare for completion of the new Madge Rothschild Resource Center. It’s the latest step in Congregation Achduth Vesholom’s re-envisioning of its facility as a Jewish community center.

The Rifkin Campus, located at 5200 Old Mill Road, houses Congregation Achduth Vesholom, Indiana's oldest Jewish congregation, and its Campus Partners: the Jewish Federation of Fort Wayne, the Fort Wayne Jewish Cemetery Association, the Madge Rothschild Resource Center, IPFW's Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, and long-time resident Brightpoint Head Start.

We broke ground on October 1, 2015 for the Resource Center and also dedicated the Rifkin Campus at 5200 sign.

Created from stone and bronze, the new sign for the Rifkin Campus was designed by Sculptor Cary Shafer. He describes the sign this way: “Limestone panels and columns mimic the Temple’s limestone facade. Negative spaces are integral to the design, separating each tenant plaque, allowing the eye to move from cube to cube, space to space, with ever-changing background scenes.” The structure consists of 8,000 pounds of Indiana Limestone, cold rolled steel, and bronze panels, each element fabricated using local resources.

At the dedication of the Rifkin Campus sign, Danny Rifkin said "Our family has been in Fort Wayne almost 75 years and this is our home. As grandchildren of European immigrants who came to America in search of true freedom, the preservation of Judaism here is important to us. It not only represents our own heritage, but reminds us of how lucky we are to live in a country in which all people are free to choose their religious path."

He continued: "We're proud to support the establishment of a Jewish cultural center that is part of the larger community, and believe that the vision of a place that brings diverse people together for worship, education, and the open exchange of ideas will promote the broader interests of the community."

Madge Rothschild was the great-granddaughter of Sigmund Redelsheimer, a founding member of Achduth Vesholom. At the time of her death in March 2005, she was the last Temple member to be a direct descendant of a founding family, a link that lasted 157 years. 

Attorney Robert A. Wagner, a member of the Distribution Committee for the Madge Rothschild Foundation, noted the family legacy in saying that Achduth Vesholom was Madge Rothschild’s home and that she was the fourth generation of her family to participate in congregational life.

 “She would be very proud of the fact that the congregation has continued to advance not only in regard to its structure here, but also its programs and the gathering of the many Jewish interests and needs in our community,” he said, adding that he views the Resource Center as “another chapter in the successful and contributing life of is congregation to our community.” 

The Temple has been nestled in the Woodhurst neighborhood since 1961. The earlier phases of the Rifkin Campus at 5200 project included a new circular driveway, improved parking, new office space, and updated and new handicap-accessible bathroom facilities, a new Religious School office and space for the Jewish community's Thoughtful Thursdays program.. 

Participating in the groundbreaking were (from left): Architect Richard Wismer; Mosaic Building Solutions Project Manager Steve Goodman; Marty Rifkin, Judy Rifkin, Neal Rifkin, and Danny Rifkin from the Rifkin Family Foundation; Achduth Vesholom President Joe Cohen and Rabbi Javier Cattapan; and Attorney Robert Wagner representing the Madge Rothschild Foundation. 

Find news coverage in The News-Sentinel and The Journal Gazette.

Madge Rothschild Resource Center Grand Opening

We're looking forward to the Grand Opening celebration for the Madge Rothschild Resource Center on Sunday, April 30, including tours and a reception beginning at 2 p.m. at the Rifkin Campus at 5200 (5200 Old Mill Road). Our keynote speaker is Author David Laskin, whose talk at 4 p.m. will focus on his roots in "One Family, Three Journeys: How One Family Embodied the Sweep of 20th Century Jewish History.” More information about the afternoon will be coming soon.

The Madge Rothschild Resource Center is the centerpiece of Congregation Achduth Vesholom’s Rifkin Campus at 5200 project. Designed by Architect Richard Wismer, the 3,150-square-foot space includes the Rabbi Richard B. Safran Library and the Jacob L. Goldman Memorial Museum.

The Resource Center focuses on the Jewish Experience in Northeast Indiana over the past two centuries, as well as Holocaust education, in an effort to strive for greater understanding among all faiths and people. The project includes an 1,100-square-foot inner courtyard with a proposed sculpture garden visible from the Resource Center.

Through the Madge Rothschild Resource Center and the Campus project, Achduth Vesholom looks forward to welcoming more members of the Fort Wayne community through its doors for educational, cultural, and other programs.  The Rifkin Campus was developed to bring together Jewish organizations in one location for greater visibility and opportunities to combine resources and energies.

The Resource Center includes flexible space to accommodate meetings and classes of different sizes up to 40 or 50 people, as well as the library and museum areas, a children's story pit, screens for presentations, and a coffee bar.

The Resource Center proper is about 3.5 times larger than our previous library/museum. The main entrance is through a long hallway created to the left of and encompassing the former Temple Gift Shop space. The hallway will be enhanced with displays, photographs, and a donor wall to recognize those who have contributed to the Rifkin Campus at 5200 Capital Campaign. Already the space has been used for a Mah Jongg Workshop and photo exhibit hosted by the Jewish Federation of Fort Wayne..

Behind The Scenes
Members of the Resource Center Committee review plans for exhibit space in the Madge Rothschild Resource Center.

A large timeline will feature information on congregations, Jewish institutions, and historical events during the past two centuries in Northeast Indiana. Exhibits will include a remnant of a Torah rescued from the Holocaust. Visitors also will learn basic information about Judaism.

Books and More
The new librarian's desk in the Resource Center will be a place to find out about our Rabbi Richard B. Safran Library collection. Books for adults and children, movies, and more will be available.

Betty's 100 Books is an effort designed to add to our collection in honor of Betty Stein's upcoming 100th birthday in December.

We're also gathering oral histories to chronicle the history of Jews in the community.

Project Timeline

Other improvements already completed:

  • Circular Drive in front of the building 
  • New boys and girls restrooms 
  • Improvements to existing restrooms
  • New Religious School office
  • New Room for Jewish community's Thoughtful Thursdays program
Our Strategic Plan: Rifkin Campus at 5200
Since Congregation Achduth Vesholom (“unity and peace”) was founded in 1848 as Indiana’s first Jewish congregation, more than eight generations of Jews have found a home here and built a strong Jewish community. We want that legacy to continue.

Our membership adopted a strategic plan in June 2012 with a vision for our current home at 5200 Old Mill Road that would sustain the Temple, strengthen the Jewish community, and serve some of the neediest families in Fort Wayne. It is the Rifkin Campus at 5200.

This re-envisioning of our beautiful building in the Woodhurst neighborhood will bring together under one roof our congregation, the Jewish Federation of Fort Wayne, the Fort Wayne Jewish Cemetery Association, and IPFW's Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, as well as strengthen our long-term association with Brightpoint Head Start. Learn more about our Campus Partners.

Through the new Madge Rothschild Resource Center expected to open in September 2016, our plans include:

  • Creating a Resource Center that highlights the Jewish Experience in Northeast Indiana over the past two centuries and promotes Holocaust Education as we strive for greater understanding among all faiths and people
  • Refocusing and growing our existing museum to support the goals of the Resource Center
  • Increasing programming and visibility for topics of interest in the Jewish and larger community.
  • Expanding our existing library to include more materials and programs on Jewish topics for youth in our congregation and community.
We look forward to this exciting opportunity for our community!

John Stein and Sally Trotter, Co-Chairs, Rifkin Campus at 5200

Campus Team

John Stein and Sally Trotter are co-chairs of Rifkin Campus at 5200.
Their team includes several coordinators of special areas:

  • Architecture - Richard Wismer
  • Communications – Beth Zweig
  • Finance – John Stein & Sally Trotter
  • Library - Betsy Gephart
Building History One Story At A Time

When Rabbi Emeritus Richard B. Safran visited Fort Wayne in September 2014, he reflected on his 26 years as Achduth Vesholom’s spiritual leader during an interview done as part of the Temple’s efforts to chronicle the history of our congregation and Jews in Northeast Indiana.


In a wide-ranging conversation, Rabbi Safran shared thoughts on the shift from Classical Reform to Traditional Reform when he arrived at Achduth Vesholom in 1969, as the congregation transitioned to the young rabbi after 30 years under the leadership of Rabbi Frederic Doppelt. Rabbi Safran and several other long-time members are among the first to share memories of earlier days at the Temple as we prepare for the proposed Resource Center as part of the Rifkin Campus at 5200.


“The Campus is a wonderful opportunity,” said Rabbi Safran, who became Rabbi Emeritus in 1995 and now lives in Tucson. “I hope it creates a sense of unity for the Jewish community…and shows the commitment of people who care about the future.”


During the first interview conducted by Rena Black with Videographer Gary Kasunic, Betty Stein, 98, talked about becoming the congregation’s first female board member and first woman president. In another conversation, Leonard and Rikki Goldstein discussed Jewish life in Fort Wayne from the mid-1940s forward and talked about the planning and building of our current building. Betty Fishman, who has been involved with the Temple’s art collection for many decades, recalled life at the Temple and Fort Wayne from 1948 to the present, her long and continuing role with the Arts and Beautification Committee, and memories of Rabbi Doppelt and his wife, Lucille.


Resource Center Director Jan Sarratore and Eileen Baitcher helped develop the oral history questions for use with the interview subjects. They also supervised intern Madison Hincks over the summer on several projects, including research on the Honor Roll Plaque of members who served in World War II, early congregational history, and information on the Bezalel School of Art that influenced pieces in the Temple’s collection.


Funding for the intern and the videographer came through a generous grant from the Dr. Harry W. Salon Foundation. The Resource Center, which will include our new museum and library, will incorporate displays on local Jewish history. Last summer, a group of congregants visited The History Center to meet with Curator Walter Font and Exhibitor Randy Elliot to learn more about setting up exhibits and historical displays. Led by Jan, the group included Museum Committee Co-Chair Maureen Grinsfelder, Campus Co-chairs John Stein and Sally Trotter, Architect Richard Wismer, and Program Vice President Beth Zweig.