The renovations at Temple Sinai of Bergen County in Tenafly are beautiful.
The structure really does express the way the community sees itself now, as opposed to the way it used to see itself, when the world was more rigid, and authority went more in one direction.
It’s a logical and lovely rendering into physicality of the direction Reform Judaism is taking, with its renewed focus on God, its emphasis on the relationships between a person and God and among people, and its collapsing of hierarchy into equality.
The new ner tamid is stunning; its delicacy combines with solidity as it glows in the center of the room, beneath a skylight.
But in a way the skylight is as much the point as the ner tamid below it.
There are six new stained glass windows that stand in Sinai’s new sanctuary, three to one side of the ark, three to the other. They’re bright, glowing, and beautiful. They emphasize Temple Sinai’s approach — Hineini, here I am, I am present, here to you, God, and to you, my community.
But in a way the windows next to those vibrant panels of stained glass are as much the point as the panels beside them.
These windows are clear glass. You can see through them, and the outside world can look in. They’re about transparency, about the community’s openness to the larger community outside it.
And they’re also about beauty.
At this time of year, spring’s new green surrounds the windows, fragile and nearly fluorescent. The flowering trees are in full bloom, so beautiful, so fleeting, so emotionally laden. The grass is brighter than it was even last week. The sanctuary sits in the middle of this glory, with the bright light that means that summer is coming, even though the beginning of this week still was miserably cold. And in the fall, these windows will frame the spectacular colors that are the dying year’s last hurrah.
The windows, next to the stained glass ones, are a study in nature and art. Neither is better than the other. They just are different. For a synagogue that works hard for social justice, that’s a fine message for the windows to send.
And one more thing about windows — when you go back through the social hall, you overlook the nursery school. There might be something more beautiful, more healing, than children at play (particularly when you, as the observer, are inside, free of the obligation to wipe any noses or adjudicate any disputes or push any swings or tie any shoelaces, free simply to watch and smile and reflect), but it’s hard to think what that might be.
So Temple Sinai, like so many other synagogues — like, for that matter, Kehilat Kesher, right across the street — has made beauty for its community, as well as for visitors and lucky passersby.
And it’s springtime, where everything is even more beautiful. We hope you enjoy it. We certainly do.