Our main lobby
As you enter our newly renovated lobby, spend some time looking at the collection of beautiful and meaningful Judaica we have displayed in our museum showcase. Items range from silver Torah ornaments to rare antiquarian Judaica volumes. Some of the items present are permanent, and some are changed from time to time. When standing in front of the case, to the right is the illuminated Megillah scroll, read on the holiday of Purim, which is lavishly illustrated by the noted Jewish artist Mordechai Rosenstein. Currently on display are a silver Yad, or Torah pointer, a large and beautiful Shofar, that is blown on the High holidays, a silver Shabbat candelabra, a silver Kiddush cup, or goblet, that is filled on Shabbat with the sweet wine which represents the sweetness of the joyous day, a silver Torah breast plate which adorns the Torah scrolls and a nine branched Hanukkiah, or Hanukkah menorah. On the left side is a remembrance of the Holocaust. The Torah scrolls are from the country that used to be called Czechoslovakia. The diorama represents the images from the Holocaust, with the barbed wire surrounding, or imprisoning the Torah scrolls. Remembering the difficult years of the Shoah.
Entering the sanctuary
When you first enter the sanctuary lobby, you will notice bronze plates on columns adorning the walls. These are remembrance plaques, with the name of our dearly departed and the date of their passing. The lights are lit up on the anniversary of their deaths, so we can respect their memory with a visual reminder, as well as a prayer. To the right, is the Holocaust memorial. It is a YadVashem design, with the 6 branches representing the 6 million who perished.
As you proceed into the sanctuary, you will be greeted with a “Shabbat Shalom, or Good Shabbas”, by the ushers – they will let you know if it is an o.k. time to enter the sanctuary, and where you can find a seat. You are welcome to sit anywhere you choose.
It is customary for all men who enter the sanctuary to where a head covering, called a Kippa or Yarmulke. It is worn as a sign of respect for g-d, and as an acknowledgement that there is something “above “us, in the universe. Women who are given an honor are expected to wear a head covering, as well. Kippot can be found outside of the sanctuary, in a basket.
Tallit (prayer shawl), are worn by those who have become Bar/Bat Mitzvah. It has special ritual fringes, called Tzitzit, in the corners. The Torah commands Jews to wear fringes on the corners of their garments, as a reminder of Gods commandments. We encourage all men and women above Bar/Bat Mitzvah age to wear a Tallit. These are available just inside of the sanctuary. These items are part of our “uniform of prayer”.
Within the embrace of the sanctuary
As you enter, you walk under the magnificent wall sculpture, by the noted Israeli artist, Michel. The 2 hands represent the priestly blessing, with the stylized Shalom in the middle. The words on the hands say “may the lord bless you and protect you”. This representation is the blessing of Shalom; hello, goodbye and peace, upon all who enter or exit the sanctuary. It is the blessing of Harmony.
On each side, at the beginning of the walls, you will see the 2 dedicatory etched glass scenes of Jerusalem. These , link us both physically and soulfully to the people of Israel.
Standing in the Sanctuary looking straight ahead, you will see the Ark (Aron HaKodesh) on the Eastern wall. The Ark holds the Torah scrolls., the sacred and central teachings of Judaica.
The doors artwork is layered in sequential order, from the top to the bottom, with the 5 books of Moses that make up the Torah. Each layer is made with an artistic symbol, as well as Hebrew word. At the top, it begins with Genesis, the heavens and earth. Below that is the book of Exodus, the 10 commandments. Leviticus is next, with the priestly hands outstretched in blessing. Between the hands is a piece of Jerusalem stone, which represents the centrality of Israel in all of our lives. Next is Numbers. Representing the journey from Egypt to Israel. The sun represents the solidity or vastness of the desert. And the bottom layer, represents Deuteronomy. The 3 pomegranates are the fruit of Israel. Each fruit has 613 seeds, believed to represent the 613 mitzvot (God deeds and good deeds) Jews are commanded to do and observe.
Over the Ark, is the Ner Tamid (eternal light). This signifies the eternal nature of the Jewish covenant with God, as well as Gods eternal presence. As we look upward at the Ner Tamid, we shift our visual perspective from the horizontal plane, lifting our eyes vertically upward and our souls heavenly ; The Hebrew phrase, written across the top says “ know before whom you stand”
The raised platform, called the Bima, means “high place”. According to tradition, we read the torah from an elevated platform to signify our respect for its holiness.
Artwork inside of the sanctuary
On the walls, to the right and left, are 12 mosaic pieces of artwork. These 12 mosaics represent the 12 tribes of Israel. The images depicted are derived from Genesis 49, and illustrate a biblical image for each. The mosaic of Judah, for example, is shown as a lion. This is a symbol of strength and pride for Israel. The 12 tribes are; Simeon, Zebulun, Judah, Levi, Issachar, Reuben, Joseph, Gad, Asher, Naphtali, Dan and Benjamin.
To view the biblical text in relation to the 12 Tribes, or “Jacobs blessings to his children”, open the Humash (the red book), – the Etz Hayim to page 298.