Thursday, January 22, 2009

Synagogue Design

If I were designing a new synagogue today, I would want it to be a place where people felt a little bit calmer and more uplifted just by walking in. I know that it can be really hard to avoid having an industrialized feel to a communal space, but I would do my best to make the physical space itself as inviting as possible. I would want to create a space where everyone felt welcome. I would love to have a small study room like the one in the new Wellesley multifaith space. And there would be some type of garden, with comfortable benches and tables and quiet spots to sit and think or have lunch. There would be playrooms, with age-appropriate toys, and a space with couches and cushions for people to hold formal or informal meetings. There would be a multipurpose room with warm inviting colors that could have tables set up for a meal or chairs for a lecture, and in this room there would be cubbies where people could put their tallis bags when they are sitting down to eat. I would want a building where the whole community felt at home, where people gathered both formally and informally to live their lives as Jews together.

The problem with this vision, aside from money to build it etc., is how to keep that warm vibrant feeling there even as the rooms and the furnishings age. A faded carpet is rarely as inviting as a new one. Grubby cushions or stuffed animals don't call out to be smooshed and hued like new ones do. Even dreams get dusty and dried up. It's easier to have enthusiasm for a new project than an old one.

But, the only way to move on to a new project is to be willing to put down the old one. And maybe when we do that, we see how the old has become the new, and we find new sparks inside ourselves that we can pass on to others.

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