Jewish Home Rechtschaffer Synagogue

Submitted by Kenneth Treister

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Client: Jewish Home for the Aged

Location: Miami, FL, United States

Completion date: 1999

Artwork budget: $80,000

Project Team

Artist

Kenneth Treister

Client

Jewish Home for the Aged

Overview

Carved Mahogany, Sterling Silver (Torah crowns and breast plates) , Velvet, inlaid enamel and stained glass.
Dimensions
30’wide X 7’deep X 10’high.

Goals

In 1999 I was commissioned as the sculptor and interior designer to design a suite consisting of a synagogue and community room in the new Hazel Cypen Tower being built at the Jewish Home of the Aged in Miami. The room was later named the Jacob Rechtschaffer Synagogue. I invited my colleague, artist and scholar, Professor Mel Alexenberg to join me in creating this work.
Professor Alexenberg and I created a fusion of art and interior design including stained glass, mahogany sculpture, carved filigree wood sliding walls, graphic art, sterling silver Torah embellishments and fabric ceremonial art.
Although I normally do not like multifunctional rooms that often do not serve either function well, I endeavored to make this succeed. To this end we used two movable, sliding filigree mahogany walls to shield the synagogue from the community room during the week and then by simply sliding these walls open, exposing it on the Sabbath.

Process

The ark at the Jewish Home is hand carved; it was carved in Guatemala from one giant mahogany tree. It took many sketches, a clay model, and three trips to Guatemala to create. The ark is the most powerful symbol of ancient Israel. It originally contained tablets of the Ten Commandments. It was made of acacia wood, inlaid with gold, had two golden cherubim protecting the tablets with outstretched wings, between which God spoke. It later was placed in Solomon’s temple where only the high priest could enter.
This curtain (parochet) at the Jewish Home separates the congregation from the Torah inside the ark. The parochet can be of any material or transparency as long as it is a separation. Here the parochet is a translucent beaded screen suspended from the ceiling.
The east wall, lighted by the rising sun, is a stained glass mural. It repeats the synagogue’s nature theme, the magnification of God. It is made of five panels depicting palm trees, a lake, bog plants and flowers, all seen through the branches and leaves of a giant tree.