Beth Israel Synagogue -- the new home of Omaha's Orthodox Jewish congregation -- is an inspiring setting for prayer, study and a variety of congregational activities. The complicated site and numerous special requirements added challenge and interest to this project.
The sanctuary is the physical and spiritual heart of the building, with excellent visibility, access, and acoustics. It is also flexible, using movable partitions to expand into the adjacent chapel and social hall. Unique stained-glass windows and art pieces interpret God's biblical covenants with the Israelites. RDG designed the Ner Tamid or Eternal Light, the reading table, mechitzah or separating walls between men and women in this Orthodox congregation, lecterns and other furnishings to complete a uniquely spiritual space. The Ark, holding the Torah scrolls, is the center of the composition; it is faced with limestone similar in color and texture to the native stone that unifies the buildings of Jerusalem. On the outside, arched forms and masonry reflect the architecture of Israel, while straightforward lines are consistent with the surrounding environment. Situated on the highest part of the site, the building has a walk-out lower level for future expansion.