" It is possible to be awestruck by the exotic splendor of this meticulously restored sanctuary."

Edward Rothstein, New York Times




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Wood Elements in the Sanctuary

Original to the 1887 design, restored 1986-2007
Walnut, oak and pine

The different woods used in the sanctuary create a hierarchy of
importance, descending from walnut to oak to pine, and linked to the
importance of the archictural element. Dark walnut, costly and
elaborately carved, was used for the elements of the sanctuary that are
the focal point during services: the ark (aron kodesh) on the eastern
wall where Torah scrolls are kept; the reader’s platform (bimah), at the
center of the sanctuary, where the Torah is read; and the cantor’s
stand (amud), where the chazzan, a trained musician, leads the
congregation in beautifully sung prayer.

Oak was used for the benches. This strong, attractive and durable
wood has survived use by generations of congregants. The design of the
pews is simple and functional, adorned only with a trefoil cutout at the
top on each end facing the aisles. This decorative touch is likely an
indication that the benches were purchased from a church supply catalog,
since a trefoil is a common symbol of the Christian holy trinity. On
the back of each bench is a shelf that can be propped up to hold a
prayer book. Below, in front of each seat, is a cubby to store a
congregant’s prayer shawl, prayer book and other essentials.

The congregation saved money where it could, using expensive
materials sparingly. The floors are made of pine planks, an inexpensive
material that is softer and less durable than either oak or walnut. Over
the course of 125 years, these floors have developed deep indentations
in front of every bench in the sanctuary, the result of shokeling, as
congregants swayed forward and back as they prayed.

Related Link

Find out more about the ark, bimah and amud.

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