Congregation Beth Ahm
362 Palisado Ave.
Windsor, CT 06095
860-688-9989

CongregationBethAhm.org
RabbiAlan@CongregationBethAhm.org

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GREATER HARTFORD BEAT THE CLOCK AUCTION
GREATER HARTFORD BEAT THE CLOCK AUCTION


Rabbi's Message



I have a fascination with architecture, I love looking at old buildings as well as what is new. I have seen the nondescript room in Jerusalem where the last supper took place as well as the newer malls which are carefully built respecting even the grave sites of Roman soldiers.

Even in New York City, there are a lot of new structures that are being built, some that look like smoke stacks and others that have careful and painstaking planning.

I was reading in a NY paper about the design of a building in the center of the NYU Catholic community. On the bottom floor of this new building on the corner was their new chapel. It is not surprising to find a sanctuary on the lowest floor of a high rise building, making it convenient for those who worship there. Actually, there is a beautiful old synagogue on the upper Westside that, sadly, is going to be taken down with the new sanctuary to be place on the bottom floor. Remember, however, as beautiful as those old structures are, they lack practicality, because of poor handicapped accessibility, deeming them obsolete

The design of the Catholic chapel was striking. “Transparency,” is a key concept in many of these new buildings. Not only do they have walls of glass, but some of the new residential construction in Manhattan includes buildings where almost all the exterior walls are floor to ceiling glass, exposing the interior. A number of those co-ops and condominiums even prohibit curtains, restricting the residents’ privacy.  The Catholic Chapel has large side walls entirely made of glass, visible to those who are passing by while the evening service was in progress. 

Upon searching the internet, I read that when Cardinal Timothy Dolan arrived for the first Mass there, he admitted to wondering at first about the absence of stained-glass windows. Then he noted that the clear windows of the new chapel look directly out onto bustling Washington Square Park. He spoke of the great number of people who passed by that ground-floor space and that it clearly demonstrated an opportunity for evangelization. In other words, the architecture was not just true to modern concerns of style but also proclaimed an open and welcoming message of faith to others.  That Chapel constantly reminded the worshipers of the outside world. Its architecture says that this Catholic community wants to draw outsiders in.

Similarly, the Rabbis of ancient times said that a synagogue building must have windows. That was not a statement about style. A modern interpretation of this rabbinic requirement was given by the late Rabbi Kook. The windows in the synagogue, he said, are to teach us that during our prayers we must be aware of the outside world. A Jew must not withdraw from the world and pray only for our own needs.

The windows of a synagogue, like the walls of glass in the Catholic Chapel also express another message, a welcoming attitude. Let us remember that our forefather Abraham’s tent was open on each of its four sides so that he could welcome strangers. He planned his residence to be hospitable. It was his attitude as well as the design for his home that mattered.

I wonder what synagogue life would be like if we had put glass walls on the side of our sanctuaries. Would we be emphasizing a welcoming attitude, with the ability to draw in more members into our congregation?

We know that many Jews are not affiliating with synagogues today, but I am always inquiring for ways in which we can reach out to them.

To paraphrase an old saying that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, let’s say that people who pray in glass sanctuaries are reading the books of our tradition that contain our ideals. Our Jewish values and goals have always been sharing goodness with the larger world and to bring it greater justice as we also aim to draw others into our community by our welcoming attitude. The Jewish message is as transparent as a wall made out of glass.

Shalom,
  - Rabbi Alan




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