First new Progressive Synagogue built on the African Continent in decades – Bet David opens its new Synagogue
In a meaningful and moving ceremony, Bet David Progressive Congregation in Morningside, Johannesburg opened and dedicated its new synagogue on Wednesday, 20 September 2017, Erev Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year). The dedication service was led by Rabbi Adrian Michael Schell.
After nearly 12 months of construction, the new synagogue was opened in time for Rosh Hashanah. Once completed, the new campus of the Progressive congregation will encompass a Shul, Nursery School, the Mitzvah School, the Middleton function hall, and offices of the congregation and the Progressive Movement of South Africa. The synagogue is the third shul built on the property over a period of 45 years, and reflects the current needs of the congregation.
The design of the synagogue is a modern one, whilst incorporating many elements of the two previous synagogues that stood on the property. The new floor-to-ceiling windows, which constitutes nearly 50% of the outside walls of the shul shall give worshippers a feeling of being part of the surrounding environment, and reflect the openness of Bet David.
After the Torah scrolls had been carried into the new shul by members of Kehillah (Bet David’s Sisterhood), the Trust and Bet David’s Management Committee, Eric Milner, Chairman of Bet David, welcomed the community to their new home and expressed the wish that the new shul will become a place where the Jewish community will come together in prayer, study and a sense of camaraderie and togetherness.
Rabbi Schell emphasised in his sermon the idea that the architecture found in synagogues worldwide mirrors the communities in which Jews live and simultaneously speaks the unique language of the Jewish people by reflecting the values of God, Torah and Israel. Rabbi Schell said: “From the time we entered into a covenant with God, there was always the vision of a sanctuary, a Mishkan, in which our relationship with God and our fellow humans can grow. The Greek word, synagogue, meaning, gathering or assembly, reflects that which we have built. Our synagogue echoes that covenant – to create a gathering place for Jews, the community, and God.” Rabbi Schell’s fervent wish for the new Shul is that “this Shul becomes a shelter for all who seek it, a place of worship of God and a place to encounter one another.”
“The shul is not yet entirely complete – some of the final touches still need to be done, but we are thankful that we could use it to celebrate the beginning of the new Jewish year. The opening of the campus will take place on 10 February 2018 with a special gala dinner,“ said Eric Milner, providing an overview of the next steps in the building process.
Picture gallery of the opening: www.betdavid.org.za/shul-opening – All pictures are free for publication in connection with the above-mentioned opening of the new Synagogue. © Bet David/private
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