Temple Micah's Building
After years of searching, two years of fund raising, and a year of construction, we dedicated the building in September 1995. It was the first new synagogue built in the District of Columbia in thirty eight years. Judith Capen and Robert Weinstein, architects and Temple members, designed the building to be recognizably Jewish and to include many Jewish architectural and symbolic elements.
As a matter of ethical principle, the building was built using union labor and there are no plaques or other recognition for any individual donor. Although not required by law, the building is fully accessible. The sanctuary has a closed circuit audio system to assist the hearing impaired through special earphones.
The building's energy-efficient, cubical, masonry structure is divided
into three houses:
- A Beit Tefila (house of prayer); sanctuary/North
- A Beit Sefer (house of study or school); classrooms/South
- A Beit Knesset (house of community); the light-filled galleria in the
A "house" or gable motif is repeated inside and out at the front door, in the sanctuary entry, throughout the galleria space, and at the ends of the sanctuary. The landscaping has been planted with Biblical references and in the color scheme of crimson, blue, and purple, the "priestly colors" of the Bible.
On the front, exterior wall are two tablets engraved in Hebrew with the abbreviated version of the Ten Commandments. The two columns flanking the front door represent the columns ("Joachim" and "Boaz") of Solomon's Temple in ancient Jerusalem. The Hebrew phrase "Eitz Chayim Hi" ("It is a tree of life"), referring to the Torah, is directly above the entrance. You can see subtle linked Stars of David in the brick pattern. The blue accent stripe around the top of the building refers to the blue threads in the prayer shawl (tallit).
The sanctuary's simple shape and extensive use of wood reflect the simplicity of 19th century synagogues in Eastern Europe and provide lively acoustics. It has no fixed seating and the stage (bimah) may be moved for different uses. The twelve high square windows in the side walls represent the twelve tribes of Israel. The four groups of three penetrations on the end walls stand for the three Fathers and four Mothers of Judaism.
Around the upper walls of the sanctuary is a piece of wood trim or frieze, inscribed with sayings from the
Tanach - The Torah, N'vi'im (prophets), and K'tuvim
(writings). The stained glass on the eastern wall, created by Martha
Aines of San Francisco, incorporate the priestly colors in a braided pattern
reminiscent of challah and the havdalah candle; it can be seen as
representing the six days of the week with the Sabbath shining above the
Sanctuary lighting is indirect, both from the south-facing gabled windows and the light fixtures.
The Syrian arch (also seen on the front exterior) on this wall frames the 4-section ark (moved from the Southwest location) holding the Torah scrolls. Below the arch, our eternal light (ner tamid), lit with natural gas, is an 1862 memorial lamp found by a congregant in Israel. The sand color of the oak and stone evokes the Sinai desert; the priestly colors appear as accent colors.
A "quiet" room, adjoining the sanctuary, was designed for parents of young (or noisy) children to be part of the religious service without disturbing others. A piece of Jerusalem stone from Israel abuts the bookcase at the sanctuary's entrance. The wood floor was added in Spring of 2000.