One of the aspects I enjoy most about my profession is the variety of different kinds of artistic furniture that I get to create. While I derive pleasure and satisfaction from designing and crafting a unique sculpted coffee table or buffet, making synagogue furniture is in a whole other league. When I undertake to design an aron kodesh for a given community I can truly say that I do so with a sense of mission (shlichoot).
Let’s examine the source of this feeling:
The atmosphere and spirit (ruach) of a synagogue are determined by many factors, first and foremost by the make-up of the congregation, of course. However, I am thoroughly convinced that the physical environment, as well, plays a substantial part in elevating the spiritual and emotional level of a sanctuary. Whether I am designing an aron kodesh (ark), bimah (torah reading table), Elijah chair, or what have you, I always attempt to incorporate three important factors:
1) Relate to the existing space -Personally, I have eclectic taste, and I certainly want my custom designed furniture to stand out proudly in the environment it inhabits. But even so the pieces I design must dwell in harmony with all pre-existing elements of design and with the overall gestalt of the building. A good example of this blending can be seen in the various elements of “Clean-lined” synagogue furniture I made for the sanctuary in Mevasseret Tzion.
2) Take into consideration the make-up of the community – For me an inherent part of this process is to learn all about the congregation. I sit and speak at length with the rabbi and leaders of the congregation (gabaim) in an effort to gleam a better understanding of any particular traits, leanings or common history that the worshippers share. This can later manifest itself both in the overall synagogue design and the verse chosen to adorn the aron kodesh. A case in point for this kind of client input is the “Abraham Saw the Place From Afar” Ark. According to tradition that synagogue is situated upon the very hilltop this biblical occurrence took place.
3) Add my own artistic interpretation – Once I have imbibed the essence of both the community and the synagogue design I then endeavor to design and craft the required synagogue furnishings. My aim is to create an atmosphere in which the congregants will feel both at ease and inspired. I achieve this by adding my own artistic rendering of man’s role as the conduit between heaven and earth. I hope and believe that when a worshipper looks up during the service at the aron kodesh I made, he or she will feel at peace and spiritually elevated.