Temple Beth Elohim was built in Wellesley, Massachusetts in the late 1950s. It was the successor of the previous Jewish Community Group (JCG) in Wellesley. Temple Beth Elohim is a Reform synagogue which derives its name from one of the Hebrew names of for God, “Elohim.” The synagogue went through a major renovation in the late 2000s (finished in 2010) in which the property and synagogue were redesigned and reconstructed. For this redesign, the ( non-Jewish) architect traveled to Jerusalem with a team from the synagogue team to seek inspiration. The renovation and reconstruction was intended to bring harmony between the synagogue architecture and the natural environment. Because the synagogue property is surrounded by wetlands, an underground water system was built to collects rain and feed water back to the surroundings. The exterior of the building is composed mainly of glass walls and the interior is filled with warm-tone lights. Together, they are intended to bring openness, welcome, and modesty to the synagogue. The glass walls empower people inside the building to connect to the exterior nature and to reach tranquility. There are many little hidden decorations throughout the building that are meaningful to the Jewish narrative but are difficult to notice. For example, there are twelve square tiles placed seemingly at random in the first-floor hall. At closer look, the tiles move towards the same direction and eventually meet at the same destination: the sanctuary. Those twelve square tiles not only represent the twelve tribes of Israel, but also different individuals and groups that come together in the synagogue as a kehilah kedoshah, a sacred community.
Photography and text by Sam Jiang.
Suggestions for Further Reading