The Sanctuary

New York Times architecture critic Paul Goldberger describes our Sanctuary as “a building that is at once a gentle tent and a powerful monument, at once a civic presence that celebrates community and a place of quiet meditation that honors solitude.”

Initially imagined by renowned architect Norman Jaffe as a tent in the woods and also inspired by wooden synagogues of Eastern Europe, our synagogue won the Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art, and Architecture Excellence in Design Award 1988. Connected to a memorial grove of trees, with an entry designed to help worshipers to shed their daily concerns and prepare for prayer, the design is based on the architectural theme of a chuppa or portico. A luminescent feeling of a tent is achieved, lit by the sun, streaming through multiple porticos and separated by skylights. The stone floors were laid in an irregular pattern with minimal joints recalling limestone blocks of Jerusalem Walls. The portico theme begins at the entry and repeats in a series of interlocking, ascending porticos that come to full height at center and then descend to a thrust bimah. The Ark, the last portico, is a building in itself. Angular columns, recalling the character of Hebrew script, bend upwards. The repetition of forms suggests a tradition of Jewish worship, a steadfastness of davening.

The sanctuary is enclosed by ten sections, a nod to the significance of the number ten in Hebrew tradition (ten tribes, ten adults to make a minion, ten commandments). The sections are named each after one of the ten branches of the sephirot, a tree-life form common to Hebrew iconography.