A Self-Guided Tour of Temple Beth Shalom

Many factors contribute to a spiritual experience: a thoughtful sermon, inspiring music, the warmth of community, and beautiful surroundings.

There is an old Chasidic saying: “Just as the hand, held before the eye, can hide the tallest mountain, so the routine of everyday life can keep us from seeing the vast radiance and the secret wonders that fill the world.” Here’s a brief guide to some of the highlights of our sacred space that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Before Entering the Sanctuary

Pausing at the front doors, you will notice two mezuzahs. These were hand-crafted in sterling silver, gold, and cloisonné by Gail Rapoport when the “new” sanctuary was completed in 1986. The design of one mezuzah echoes the outside of the temple; the other features an opalescent enamel and is, in Gail’s words “the best mezuzah I ever made.”

Looking up as you stand in the foyer, you see a whimsical mobile hanging in welcome. These painted steel-cut Jewish symbols were designed by the late Isa Barnett, father of Patina Gallery owner Ivan Barnett. “The fact that it’s kinetic, and always in some sort of movement, makes sense to me in that Judaism, with its five thousand years of history, is always reshaping itself.” Wise words from Ivan.

The framed print that hangs above between the doors to the social hall and the sanctuary is the work of congregant and talented artist, Sara Novenson. Sara chose Hannah from her Women of the Bible series because “Hannah stands for prayer.” When praying to God for a child, Hannah said, “If You give me a son, I will give him back to You.” She did give birth to a son and she named him Samuel. This story has special significance to Sara, as her parents were Hannah and Samuel.

The Sanctuary

Architect Ed Mazria recalls that Rabbi Leonard Helman requested only two things in the design of the Main Sanctuary: that he feel like part of the congregation when conducting services and that the congregants feel united in the space. Thus the lower step of the bima extends forward into the congregation and the seating is at a 45-degree angle, so congregants can see each other across the aisle instead of staring at the back of the person in front of them. The sanctuary faces east, and the windows on the west wall are high, so that a direct beam of sunlight washes over the congregation as the Ne’ilah service ends each Yom Kippur.

We take great pride in our new ark: a perfect example of every cloud having a silver lining. In 2008, Temple Beth Shalom suffered a roof leak that required the total removal of the former ark. Rod Gesten’s design for the new ark interior was inspired by the white oak and brass ark doors which, years ago, inspired the design of our Torah table, built by Bill Light. The twelve handmade stars that grace the ark’s tile backdrop were made by Kari Rives to echo the stars in the tile wall above it.

The high tile wall has its own story. Len Goodman, owner of Arius Tile, was originally engaged only to create the dedication wall in the foyer. Once installed, however, the gorgeous tile work in the entry made the sanctuary look drab. The interlocking pattern of stars above the bima was inspired by Islamic tile work. Len says it took two weeks just to figure out the geometry of the pattern. The large Star of David in the center echoes the iron star that hangs above the Temple’s main entrance.

The ner tamid (eternal light) above the ark was made by Bette Yozell. The Hebrew says of the Torah, “It is a tree of life for those who hold fast to it.” The motif of the tree intermingled with the Star of David reflects this quote from the psalms. The root system of the tree reminds us that we all need to be grounded in that which sustains us.

Our Torahs

Temple Beth Shalom is blessed and honored to have several Torahs.

  • Congregant Steve Lewis designed and built the case that stands at the base of the handicapped ramp to the upper bima. It houses our Las Vegas Scroll, believed to be the first Sefer Torah ever brought to New Mexico. When the Montefiore congregation in Las Vegas, NM, was dissolved, this precious Torah came to us for safekeeping. Despite its poor condition, the scroll is very valuable because of its size and the calligraphic skill of its scribe. It may be a composite of several scrolls patched together with some Sefardic pieces incorporated into it. This Torah was a featured display at Santa Fe’s Palace of the Governors during their “Pioneer Jews” exhibit.
  • The Holocaust Scroll (Czech Memorial Scroll No. 426) was written circa 1890. It served the Jewish community of Mlada Boleslav in Czechoslovakia until the Nazi occupation in 1938/39 and since October 17, 1989 has been on permanent loan to us from the Memorial Scrolls Trust, Kent House, Knightsbridge, London, England (visit www.memorialscrollstrust.org to learn more). Having survived the Holocaust, the scroll suffered water damage as a result of our 2008 roof leak. The ark was repaired, the scroll was dried out and re-stretched, but the damage to the lettering was severe. In 2013, under the direction of Rabbi Schwab, TBS undertook a major Holocaust Scroll Restoration Project. The fully repaired scroll was re-dedicated in September of 2014. This Torah wears a mantle honoring Rabbi Schwab for his determination to make this Holocaust survivor live again. The scroll reminds us that, despite the best efforts of the Nazis, the Jewish people survive and persevere.
  • The Swartzberg Scroll was donated by Alan Swartzberg, a long-time supporter of the Temple Beth Shalom community. It was restored by Detroit Torah scribe, Rabbi Yosef Lange.
  • J. Howard Beck of Newton, Massachusetts donated the Beck Scroll in June, 1988.
  • The Temple Beth Shalom Scroll was purchased in the 1960s for the Santa Fe Jewish Community. This scroll was repaired in Denver by Rabbi Menachem Goldberger in 1986.
  • Our Rabbi Emeritus Ben Morrow purchased the Morrow Scroll. This scroll is graced by a lovely Torah cover woven by congregant Lisa Trujillo.
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Services & Study This Week

Friday, June 22
6:30 pm Erev Shabbat Services
Dorothea Farewell

Saturday, June 23
9:00 am Bagels, Coffee and Torah Study
10:30 am Shabbat Morning Service
Julian & Emma Rhode B'nai Mitzvah