Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Futzing with tradition…

If you haven’t read about it, the hammer comes down this Monday July 16th on the controversial renovation proposal for Holy Blossom Temple. The building will turn seventy next year and could do with many improvements in the form of renovating and adding additional facilities to its current structure.

The tension surrounding the proposal is the plan to turn the main sanctuary around. Where worshippers often enter from the Bathurst Street entrance and face the inspirational domed apse under which the Aron Kodesh and the bimah currently resides. The Holy Blossom building committee would like to see the front of the sanctuary become the rear and the rose window where the Temple choir and the organ use to be, house the Sefer Torah for presumably the next seventy years. Part of the rationale behind it is that worshippers would now face east towards Jerusalem as it is in most other synagogues though the planning committee would like us to believe it has more to do with continuing to socially grow the 2,200 members’ strong congregation.

To this member’s knowledge, Holy Blossom Temple has rarely if ever concerned itself with the practices of other synagogues. In fact there was one year when Rosh Hashanah happened to fall at the same time as Shabbat and the shofar was sounded. Commonly known by most that sounding the shofar is a form of work and one is to abstain from calling out the various sounds on the ram’s horn, the head rabbi of the congregation at the time explained during his Yom Kippur morning sermon that in Reform Judaism, we do as we choose to and it is what the congregants look forward to at the close of the service.

If the congregation and more importantly the rabbis are not so concerned with following the sacred commandment of refraining from work on the seventh day, why 69 years after the opening of the current temple site is it even in part, a determining factor to directly face the Second Temple wall? Cary Solomon, head of the temple’s building transformation committee commented on the buildings current state and was quoted in the July 12th edition of The CJN by Frances Kraft, “It’s a very important building, architecturally and iconically.”

The rose window was adapted by the same builder, who constructed Temple Emanu-El in New York City, an equally historic congregation. Rabbi John Moscowitz the current head rabbi of Holy Blossom does not believe the temple would lose historical value by reorienting the main sanctuary. By eliminating the domed apse as the sanctuary's main focal point for worship and the current location of the bimah, the number of family and congregational lifecycle moments that have taken place until now under the current setting will most certainly be lost to time and video records.

All eyes will certainly be on the vote's results in the weeks ahead.

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