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Crafting a community at Temple Israel in Natick

Longtime Natick resident Jay Ball (right) and his son David with their book, “Ark Builders: Worship through Woodworking.”
Scott Bump
Longtime Natick resident Jay Ball (right) and his son David with their book, “Ark Builders: Worship through Woodworking.”

In 1985, Jay Ball and three of his fellow members of Temple Israel in Natick responded to the need for more seating at Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur services by building more furniture. Later they were asked to construct an ark for the synagogue’s Torah scrolls. Soon afterward, the four began meeting on Sunday mornings over bagels and lox to discuss new project ideas.

Ball and his son David, of Charleston, S.C., recently wrote a book about the community-building nature of the group’s artistic yet functional projects over the past three decades, within their synagogue and later in service to the town. The foreword to “Ark Builders: Worship Through Woodworking” was penned by Rabbi Harold Kushner, the best-selling author of “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” who served at Temple Israel for 24 years.

“None of us are master craftsmen, but over the years, we built a lot and learned a lot,” said Jay Ball, who has lived in Natick for 56 years. A member of Temple Israel since 1961, the former selectman is a member of the town’s Parking Study Committee, Affordable Housing Trust Fund board, andNatick Days Steering Committee, and the MetroWest Health Foundation’s local grants panel.


The 176-page book features dozens of photographs, detailed mechanical drawings, and profiles of the 22 official “ark builders.”

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It also conveys the sense of ownership and pride that develops when individuals of varying ages and denominations join together in meaningful work. In all, the Balls estimate that 150 individuals, from 6 to 90 years old, have contributed to projects benefiting the Morse Institute Library, Hartford Street Presbyterian Church, A Place to Turn food pantry, Natick Service Council, and renovation efforts at five homes overseen by the Natick Housing Authority.

David Ball, who previously wrote the 2010 volume “American Astrophilately: The First 50 Years,” said he hopes “Ark Builders” inspires others to take action.

“One of the take-home messages is the power of community spirit,” he said. “It’s remarkable how much gets done when people simply get together and pitch in.”

“Ark Builders” sells for $36. For more details, visit wwww.arkbuildersbook.com.

Cindy Cantrell

Cindy Cantrell may be reached at cindycantrell20@gmail.com.