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Mishkan: Our temple home

Our temple home is an architectural gem. 

The centerpiece of our building, the sanctuary, was designed by Rochester architect James Johnson (1932–2016) and constructed in 1967. Johnson was a leading exemplar of organic modernism, an approach to design that sought harmony between physical structures and their natural environments.

Breaking Ground 1965 

Breaking Ground 1965

Our "Tent"

James Johnson shaped the structure like a tent to symbolize the nomadic theme in Jewish history. 

Each of its two concrete walls is made up of five sections, each section representing one of the 10 lost tribes that, under King Jeroboam, once made up the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

Through the glass roof, we look upward and are reminded that God once promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. 

Beyond the glass wall, two tablets can be seen soaring toward the sky. These often remind the worshipper of God's covenant with the Jewish people: the Ten Commandments. 

Inside the Sanctuary

Upon entering the sanctuary, the impression is one of being simultaneously both indoors and outside. The glass wall behind the bima and the glass ceiling welcome in the light of the outside world as well as the colors of nature, cyclically changing with the seasons.





The Ark

Inside, the eye is drawn to the Holy Ark (Aron HaKodesh) where the Torah scrolls (the five books of Moses) rest. The ark, as well as the lectern, were handcrafted by the sculptor Wendell Castle (1932–2018), a leading figure in American craft who spent most of his career in Rochester. 

Housed inside our ark is a Torah scroll written in the mid-19th century, it was among 1,564 Torahs from synagogues in the regions of Bohemia and Moravia, in the present-day Czech Republic, that survived World War II and the Holocaust.

As the threat of invasion grew, Jewish communities in these regions began sending their Torahs scrolls to the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague for safekeeping. The Nazis confiscated the scrolls, and after the German defeat, the Czech Republic released the Torahs to British Jews who repaired and distributed them to synagogues throughout the world. Temple Sinai received this Torah from the Memorial Scrolls Trust in London in 1980.

Wed, May 22 2024 14 Iyar 5784