A Tour of Temple Judea

Our Congregation was founded in 1981 but in 2003, we moved to our present location in Palm Beach Gardens. The shell of our present building was originally a Mormon Meeting House from the1960's which had been left empty for some time and was in need of a total renovation. Temple Member Denise Meyer donated 2 years of her time to design, decorate, and oversee the construction of our present building.

Click here to view a live tour by Rabbi Joel Levine, Rabbi Emeritus

At the front of the Synagogue, we are welcomed by Two Lions which represent the Lions of Judah. In the Torah, our Patriarch Jacob describes his son Judah as "a lion's cub .. who crouches like a lion, like a lioness" (Genesis 49:9)

Two outer columns represent the two most powerful kings of the ancient United Kingdom of Israel: David and Shlomo (David and Solomon) with their names inscribed on the pillars. The remaining columns number twelve, representing the 12 Tribes of Israel. From West to East, the names on the columns are the Hebrew names of Jacob's 12 sons: Reuben (R'oovane), Simeon (Shmon), Levi (L'vi) , Judah (Y'huda), Zebulan (Z'bu'ln), Issachar (Is'sa'car), Dan (Da'n), Gad (G'd), Asher (Ahshr), Naphtali, Joseph (Yosef), and Benjamin (Binyamin).

At the Western End of the Columns is the Healing Tower. If you look up, you will see the prayer for healing inscribed around the ceiling twice. "B'ruch ata Adonai, rofe ha choleem". "Blessed are you, oh God, Healer of the Sick".  Sit on the bench and unwind while enjoying the serenity of the Chillingworth Garden and the fountain brought over from our previous temple location in West Palm Beach.

The 2 mosaics at the entrance to the main lobby portray two cornerstones of Judaism: Tzedaka (Charity) and Mishpat (Justice). Denise designed and worked with a local mosaic artist to create these special pieces just for our Temple.

Over the Main Entrance is the first line of the Priestly Blessing from the Torah (Numbers 6:24-26): "Y'va'rech'cha Adonai V'yish'm'recha" -- "May Adonai Bless You and Guard You". In the Torah, the blessing continues with "May Adonai shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May Adonai favor you and give you peace."

When you enter and stand in the lobby, your eyes go first to the ceiling and the beautiful Tallit that welcomes us to a house of prayer. Behind you over the main doors is the Hebrew inscription of our name: Congregation Kehilat Yehuda, Community of Judea.
On the east and west walls are two beautiful niches honoring the Guardians of Judea. The stone design resembles the stones of the Western Wall in Jerusalem where prayers to God are inserted between the stones. Guardians of Judea are temple members who have donated to the creation of this new synagogue. These donors answered our prayers to help build our synagogue.

On the right as you enter the foyer, is our gift shop. If you look up at the ceiling, you will see it is a brick arch, like the small shop stalls in Cardo of the Old City of Jerusalem. Denise stumbled across the iron gate in an architectural warehouse and had it fashioned to look like an authentic entrance to an old shuk in the marketplace.

On the eastern wall of the foyer are four beautifully framed art lithographs by the famous artist Theo Tobiasse depicting the Jewish Holidays: Purim, Sukkot with Lulav, Shavuot and Pesach. These were generously donated by a temple member.

The room on your right past the Guardians list, is the Beit Midrash, or House of Study. On the walls of the Beit Midrash are beautiful prints of King David during various times in his life by renowned artist Edna Hibel. The window etchings depict Jerusalem in the time of King David, as does the print on the western wall of the Beit Midrash.

Next is our Pavilion or Social Hall, where we hold Shabbat dinners and various group activities. The room was originally a gymnasium with basketball hoops and wooden floors! Denise designed the lovely "Stars of David Ceiling" which were hand-painted. The design of the carpet was also created especially for us. It doesn't look like a gym anymore! The adjoining kitchen was brought up to commercial grade, so it can be used to cater Bar/Bat Mitzvah's, weddings, and our Friday night Onegs.

Before entering the Sanctuary, you will see, over the door, the Hebrew words for "K'dosh K'dosh K'dosh", or "Holy Holy Holy". This is a special part of the daily service and reminds us of the sacred space we are entering. On the right side of the door are small painted Hebrew letters meaning "God of Hosts" (Angels) and on the left side of the door, "The Whole World is Filled with God's Glory" (Melo call haaretz kevodo). The Sanctuary doors themselves enclose a beautiful stained glass Star of David.
The Sanctuary architecture and decoration is a blending of styles from both the Ashkenazi and Sephardic traditions of Judaism, and are meant to commemorate the oldest Jewish communities in America. Turn and look up over the door to the Sanctuary you just entered, and you will see a stained glass window that is a replica of a window in the Eldrige Street Synagogue on the Lower East Side of New York, built in the 1880's in the Ashkenazi style and one of the earliest shuls attended by new immigrants to our shores.

You will also see a traditional depiction of the Ten Commandments, in the style of Old Eastern European Synagogues. Only the first letters of each Commandment are carved on the tablets in Hebrew. The repetition of the Hebrew "Lo" means NO, as in Thou Shalt Not.
The scrolled ceiling border was hand painted and designed just for our temple. Denise also designed the light fixtures, which were made exclusively for our Sanctuary and reflect old world charm.

On the back wall - on each side of the Sanctuary door - in large Hebrew lettering, (from right to left as you face the door) is the beginning of the Kaddish, (which is our only major prayer in Aramaic): "Yitgadal v'yitkadash sh'mei rabba ... ba'agala u'vizman kariv, v'imru: Amein". Or "Magnified and Sanctified is God's name .. Speedly in our time, and let us say, Amen". It was common in pre-war Polish synagogues to have seder verses written on the walls as we have done here.

Now, turning to face the Bima, you will note that the style is Sephardic, from Spanish-Portuguese Jewish traditions. This part of the Sanctuary is patterned after Shearith Israel, the oldest Congregation in New York, on 72nd and Central Park West, whose current synagogue dates from the 1880's. The stained glass is artificially lit from behind as it faces in and not out.

Above the Ark, where our sacred Torahs are kept, are the words: "Da l'fnay me ata omed", "Know before whom you stand". The Eternal Light hangs before the Ark. The interior of the Ark, the curtains and fabrics, and Torah covers, are replicas of those used at the Sephardic Polk Street Synagogue in New York. This was the synagogue for the first settlement of Jews in America in 1654! The interior of the Ark is modeled after the 1749 Polk Street Synagogue which no longer exists. Historical pictures of that shul appeared in Hadassah Magazine at the time we were designing our building. It seemed a fitting tribute to replicate the designs from the first Jews in America! It so happened that our building was opened in 2005, which was the 350th Anniversary of Jewish Settlement in America.

In the Ark, are the words "Keter Torah" -- "Crown of the Torah". We have three Torahs. One is on permanent loan from the Westminster Synagogues in London and is originally from the the town of Vlasim in the Czech Republic. Perhaps the oldest Torah was donated by Rabbi Joel Levine and his wife Susan in memory of Susan's mother, Fran Zeitz, and was purchased from a scribe in Miami. The newest Torah was created by the members our our congregation in a year long Torah writing ---- and donated by Lois Zinman in memory of her husband Jerry, son Rory and grandson Joshua.

Returning to the foyer, you will see a Tree of Life on the Wall just to the west of the foyer. It was a part of our first synagogue on Chillingworth Drive in West Palm Beach and brought lovingly to it's new location as a reminder of our own history.  In addition, there are many wonderful pieces of art work displayed throughout the building.

The wonderful architecture and interior design of our synagogue is almost exclusively due to the research of Denise Meyer and her desire, along with that of Rabbi Levine and the congregation to pay tribute to the history of the early Jewish communities in America. All of the faux finishes and hand painted designs were created by temple members Bari and Phil Axelband who contributed countless hours to the project. So many temple members donated their time and talents to help renovate the building bringing it to its present day "crowning achievement."


5776 Year in Review

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