As you walk down the hallways of our synagogue, there are several important items that we brought from our home in Willingboro. Located between the Rabbis’ offices are the fixtures from the bima of the permanent sanctuary dedicated in 1975. These were designed and created by Stanley Miller as one of his initial Judaic art productions. This includes the ark doors, which are adorned with the letters of the Ten Commandments, as well as the phrase “Adonai lee v’lo ira” (God is with us; we shall not fear). Also in that alcove, the dedication and gift plaques from our Willingboro home are displayed, along with the Congregation’s original charter, dated July 16, 1959.
As you enter the lobby of our sanctuary, the past presidents plaques of the Congregation, Sisterhood and Men’s Club are displayed. Also in the lobby are the illuminated replicas of the Holocaust Memorial Mosaics, which were designed by Lois G. Levine and created with the assistance of many of our Congregational families. Off the lobby, in the Tapestry Room, you will find the Tapestry Rug, which was also designed by Lois G. Levine and created by many members of our Congregational family.
Our synagogue in Mount Laurel was designed with many details and meaning, with an openness that is to be welcoming to all. As you stand in the sanctuary lobby and look upwards towards the skylight, you will notice that the central point of the skylight has twelve radiating spokes. This is symbolic of the diaspora (the 12 tribes being spread throughout the lands of the earth). Here at Adath Emanu-El, we offer a more modern interpretation of this image – the central hub is Adath Emanu-El, where we welcome into our family anyone who wishes to affiliate from wherever they may come.
The sanctuary was designed to make everyone feel at home and comfortable. Its design, by architect Barry Bannett, was deliberately kept very simple so that anyone participating in a religious observance would be focused on the reason they were there, without distractions. Bonnie Srolovitz and Michael Berkowicz of Presentations Galleries designed the interior of the sanctuary. Bonnie grew up in our congregation and was familiar with the feeling that we were trying to portray in the sanctuary of a family home. The pews illustrate our belief that we are part of one family because they were made on Kibbutz Lavi in Israel. The central focus of the bima is the ark. The doors represent a burning bush and inscribed in the flames is Emanu-El (G-d is with us). The ark is lit from the inside so that the light of Torah will shine forth through the doors to bring its message to the congregants seated before it. Above the ark is the ner tamid, which is symbolized in Hebrew by a double yud, representing “God.” Bracketing the ark are wooden panels representing an open book – for we have always been known as the People of the Book. Extending from the open book are walls of imported Jerusalem stone. The walls are shaped as wings reaching out to embrace the congregation. As you look up above the bima, you will see the six-pointed star, the Shield of David, which we pray will protect us always as we go forward to a bright and limitless future.