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Congregation Micah / Nashville, Tennessee

The challenge was to build a temple that draws worshippers closer together, that invites spiritual reflection and encourages the communitarian aspiration of the congregants. The congregation needed more space and wished to make a distinctive statement of contemporary Judaism in a community with more than 300 churches but only 3 synagogues.

The building is set well back on its 38 acre site closer to the hills beyond and to establish the natural setting, preserve 24 acres of protected wetlands and to orchestrate the approach sequence through the trees and flowering meadow. Drawing inspiration from the walls of Jerusalem, yellow-gold brick, are laid in patterns that resemble the large cut stone and varied patterns of the ancient Temple’s Western Wall; worshippers are drawn through the entry and into a traditionally inspired Jewish community.

Picture a 19th century shtetl, a close-knit eastern European village. The streets are narrow, the sounds of life everywhere; a small chapel tight between the shops; the voices of children raised in prayer serenade. The rabbi’s study is across the street, a quiet retreat, lined with books and Judaic art. At the corner, across from the synagogue, is a library filled with children’s storybooks, Jewish recipes from distant lands, Bibles and biographies. To the right a smaller street extends to the edge of town with little schools along the way, each an active cluster of classrooms where children learn to draw and sing and read.

The sanctuary is a deliberate departure from the enclosed and sheltered synagogues of the shtetl. It is welcoming, airy and filled with light of the open countryside. The room seats 300 in just 7 rows, with remarkable intimacy. Panels along the sanctuary’s curved rear wall open to accommodate 1200 for the High Holy Days. At the center the Torahs are sheltered in a cylindrical Ark that is the heart of the building, forming the base for the 7 steel trusses that spring to support the roof like the branches of a menorah or the tree of life. The curved copper doors of the Ark, are inscribed with Exodus 20, which includes the Ten Commandments.

Project Location

Location Map

    Key Information

  • Beautiful site adjacent to 2 large churches and wetlands to the South East
  • Progressive Reform Congregation, the first new Jewish Institution in the Nashville area in the last 50 years [currently 3 Synagogues and 300 churches]
  • Multiple Architectural, Structural, Judaic and Community Awards