In splansky, Third

By Rabbi Yael Splansky.

I have come to admire the Diamond-Schmitt Architects for the time they invest in listening.  I have no doubt that the spaces we come to in our renewed building will meet the physical needs of our congregation because we are asking all the right questions and congregants have been very forthcoming with the answers.

The next layer in our planning – as we move from schematic to detailed design – is how to make it “uniquely synagogue” and “uniquely Holy Blossom Temple.”  Now we merge functionality with sanctity.  What are our core values and how can we express them creatively through mortar and brick, metal and glass?  How can spirit inspire a space, which will, in turn, inspire the spirit for generations to come?  Our synagogue architecture must reflect the values, beliefs, and aspirations of our community.

For example, government codes require basic standards of accessibility and sustainability, but how will the Jewish values of honouring the elderly and the mitzvah of “not placing a stumbling block before the blind” ensure accessibility with full dignity?  How can the Genesis mitzvah of “protecting the earth” ring throughout our synagogue, inside and out?

Life-long learning, Tzedakah and Social Action, Love of Israel, Hospitality, Honouring the legacy of those who came before, Family and Peoplehood.  What other core values might you add to this list?  Please leave your “Core Value Comments” in the comment section immediately below this post.

“I have appointed a place for My people Israel….that they may dwell in a place of their own.”  (II Samuel 7:10)

This is where real creativity comes in.  The New World synagogues of Curacao and St. Thomas put sand on their sanctuary floors to remember how their ancestors in Spain had to muffle the sounds of Jewish life.  A new Chicago-area synagogue invites congregants who travel to Israel to bring back stones to place under the glass threshold of their sanctuary.  And yes, Rabbi Eisendrath built Holy Blossom Temple a tower to give form to Isaiah’s mission, that the Jewish People should be a “Light unto the Nations.”

What ideas do you have to share?  Some may be playful; some grand.  Some may be borrowed from places you visit around town or across the planet; others may live only in your imagination.  Please leave your ideas in the comment section immediately below this post.   Let’s dream big and small, so that every corner of our renewed space invites us to join our long-ago ancestor who stood in Jerusalem’s Temple and declared:  “Ashrei yoshvei veitecha!  Od y’hallelucha.  Selah!”  “Happy are those who dwell in Your House.  We will continue to sing out joyful songs of praise.”  (Psalms 84:5)


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  • Susan Bookbinder

    We have lots to recall of the past in Holy Blossom Temple’s original building. It’s an important heritage that is understandably meaningful to us all. It will take time for our new space to acquire the same significance.
    In our family travels, features that we have always noticed and enjoyed were those that reflected the community’s culture – so often expressed in their use of colour and decorative detailing. I am hoping that we can find ways to draw on the talents of our own members and the larger Jewish community to embellish our new spaces with meaningful symbols colourfully and creatively interpreted.

  • Peter L Weinwurm

    How to make a “uniquely synagogue” and “uniquely Holy Blossom Temple.” Functionality with Sanctity. These are fascinating and challenging issues which require patience and thoughtful way of thinking with best experts available to us.

    I was fortunate to meet Jay Ira Brown from LevinBrown Architects during Biennial in San Diego. See

    During our lengthy discussions we were talking about religious architecture.
    I was impressed with his inspiring work and the spirit of his architecture. His religious architecture is reflection of values and aspirations of our Jewish communities.

    With 25 years of experience specializing in synagogue and church architecture and more than 150 projects successfully completed to date, Levin/Brown & Associates, Inc. is uniquely qualified to assist our congregation as we plan for the future.

    I suggest to contact Levin Brown to give us an opportunity to benefit from their work. I see a potential cooperation between Diamond-Schmitt Architects and Levin Brown Architects which can lead to unique and meaningful results benefiting everybody involved.

    Peter L Weinwurm

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