Step into our sanctuary and you’re enveloped by a breathtaking room with soaring ceiling, continuous red brick walls, and warm gold carpeting reminiscent of the desert sand of Sinai. Designed by noted architect Vincent G. Kling and completed in 1972, this oasis includes two glorious key features: the Ner Tamid—Eternal Light—and our award-winning Ark designed by the late Hungarian architect Mark Zubar. The Ark is fashioned entirely of brass and stained glass. Its brilliant oranges, yellows, and reds, angled upward, evoke flames against the brick and glass wall behind. Elevated rows of 12 Stars of David, symbolizing the Twelve Tribes of Israel, lend further artistic Jewish metaphor while at the back, interspersed among the pieces of bold stained glass, 10 small circles of opaque glass represent the Ten Commandments. Also formed of glass and brass, the Eternal Light, suspended at the front of the bimah, shimmers an array of hues.The light is signified through glass cut into flamelike shapes that irregularly jut out of the brass fixture. Above the flames of the Eternal Light, Stars of David are etched in black into the concrete ceiling creating a powerful image of the symbols of the Jewish faith. At once lovely and soothing, the Molish Sanctuary is the heart of Old York Road Temple-Beth Am.
An integral part of the Evelyn and Ronald A. Krancer Center for Jewish Life, dedicated in 2008, the Temple Beth Torah Chapel provides flexible space for prayer and special activities such as Tots-N-Torah, adult and family education programs, family celebrations and Torah yoga. The original Aron Ha Kodesh – Holy Ark – from Temple Beth Torah’s building on Welsh Road is the centerpiece of the room. The Ner Tamid – Eternal Light – was designed by New York artist David Klass. Above the Ark, the words Da Lifnei Mi Atah Omed — Know Before Whom You Stand — remind us that we stand before God when we pray, and recall the scene described in Exodus when Moses appeared before God at the burning bush. The Ark is flanked by a pair of original Temple Beth Torah seven-branched menorahs, signifying the seven days of the week. Celebrations that took place at Temple Beth Torah are recalled with leaves on the Etz Chayim—Tree of Life—on the side wall near the entrance. In addition, the original panels that appeared on Beth Am’s chuppah – wedding canopy – needlepointed by volunteers from Sisterhood, are framed and mounted, quoting biblical love poetry: Ani l’dodi v’dodi li – “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” (Song of Songs)
The intimate space of the Klein Chapel, located on the lower level, features warm brick, soft lighting, and magnificent vibrant tapestries created by celebrated Israeli artist Bracha Lavee that interpret prominent biblical themes. The adjacent lobby area looks out onto a beautiful inner courtyard, enjoyed throughout the changing seasons. The Klein Chapel was dedicated to honor the memory of Adolf and Jeane Klein in 1976.
“In the creation of the world, the Holy One began with the act of planting, as it says: And God planted a garden in Eden (Genesis 2:8), and so too when you enter the Land of Israel, you shall first plant” (Leviticus 19:23). Midrash Leviticus Rabbah 25:3
The entrance of the synagogue’s Evelyn and Ronald A. Krancer Center for Jewish Life is graced by the Saltzman Family Biblical Garden, whose offerings include a variety of plants named in Torah as native to the Land of Israel. The garden was created by award-winning landscape designers Burke Brothers, led by congregant Kevin Burke. It contains a number of interesting architectural features: a water element, a series of teak benches, a pergola/grape arbor, a Magen David (Star of David), and a stone pulpit/podium.
Water: “God said to Moses, ‘Assemble the people that I may give them water.’ Then Israel sang this song: Spring up, O well – sing to it.” (Numbers 21:16-17).
Water is an important symbol in Judaism—the source of life; the medium of birth, death, and immortality; and the reservoir of wisdom. During their 40-year journey through the desert, the Israelites were sustained by water from Miriam’s well. Additionally, our Torah is often referred to as “mayim chayim,” living waters. Our garden’s water feature is surrounded by eye-catching annual plants and attracts assorted beautiful birds. It welcomes congregants and their guests while highlighting the importance of water in our biblical narrative.
Four teak benches grace our garden and provide a place for visitors to relax and savor their stunning surroundings. Each bench is engraved with the individual names of the Saltzman Family donors. The number four is significant, as it has always been associated with the earth and its rhythms: four corners, four seasons, four directions, four winds, and four elements. In the Torah, the Israelites were commanded to gather four species of plants as part of their celebration of Sukkot: lulav (palm), myrtle, willow, and etrog.
The pergola/grape arbor reminds us that grapes constitute a vital part of Israel’s economy, both in ancient and modern times. As the third of the seven species representing the Land of Israel, grapes are traditionally eaten on the holiday of Tu B’Shevat, which celebrates the reawakening of agricultural life after winter dormancy. The giant grape cluster requiring two men to lift it (Numbers 13:23) is a popular motif of Israel’s productivity.
The Star of David (Magen David) is the most universally recognized symbol of the Jewish People. In The Star of Redemption (1921), Franz Rosenzweig frames his philosophy of Judaism around the image of the Jewish Star, composed of two conceptual triads, which together form the basis of Jewish belief: Creation, Revelation, and Redemption; God, Torah and Israel.
The stone pulpit/podium placed near the Magen David creates an area where intimate life cycle events or prayer services can be conducted. On clear summer Friday evenings, the congregation gathers in the garden for Kiddush and Motzi.
Three generations of the Saltzman Family dedicated the Biblical Garden in October 2009.
The garden inspired the creation of an adjacent mosaic mural, made of thousands of individual glass and ceramic pieces. The mosaic took hundreds of hours of painstaking work by 11 volunteers (congregants and community members); it was designed by our congregant Suzanne Borow Rubin. Sandi Young co-chaired this intensive labor of love. Depicting the seven species named in Torah, the design includes a seven-branched tree representing a menorah. Dates, olives, grapes, figs, and pomegranates are surrounded by wheat and barley. Tones of blue, the image of a lake, underscore the vital role water plays in the continuity of life.
Above the tree appears a dove, symbolic of the peace for which we yearn. A dragonfly and butterflies frolic in the garden. A three-dimensional spider with legs crafted of bent nails reminds us of Rabbi Harold B. Waintrup z”l, whose love of baseball led to his nickname of “Spider” Waintrup. Small flowers are made from shards of china, contributed by congregants. Stones at the base of the wall were gathered by Rabbi Robert Leib at Mount Herzl in Jerusalem, providing another connection to the Land of Israel. The mosaic was unveiled to the congregation prior to Selichot services in September 2012.
Helping to keep the promise to Zachor – “Remember” – our Holocaust Memorial honors the memory of our congregants’ family members who perished in the Shoah – “the Holocaust.” Located in the inner courtyard, the memorial was dedicated on November 9, 2010, the 72nd anniversary of Kristallnacht – “The Night of Broken Glass.” It provides a quiet, sheltered place for contemplation and private prayer.
Designed by David Klass, a New York based artist and metallurgist, the memorial is a fitting tribute to our martyred brethren who perished in the Nazi Holocaust. The names and locations of concentration camps and killing fields remind us of the gargantuan reach of the Nazis throughout Europe. The Hebrew word Yizkor – “Remember” – appears in a vertical formation of blood-red stained glass letters surrounded by ominous hues of dark blue/grey. Six symbolic glass lights represent the six million who perished in the Shoah; they are secured to the parallel metal that symbolizes the railroad tracks leading to, and barbed wire of, the death camps.
The text of the famous poem The Butterfly further heightens the power of the memorial. Its author, Pavel Friedmann, was born in Prague on January 7, 1921. He was deported to Terezin on April 26, 1942 and later to Auschwitz, where he died on September 29, 1944. Metallic butterflies “fly” from the memorial toward the adjacent butterfly garden.
Congregants Jerry Brill z”l, and his son Robert dedicated the memorial in loving memory of their wife and mother, Myrna Brill z”l.