Let's start the tour with our Biblical Garden, in front of the building.
The lush greenery here brings together nature and the Bible in a way that can be appreciated by people of all religions. With its tribute to the many plants of the Bible, the garden was the first of its kind in the Midwest when planted in 1979.
The permanent interfaith project and educational tool was undertaken by the Temple Sisterhood. Through the years, the types of plants have changed as gardeners learned what specimens would best adapt to the Indiana climate. Included are ivy, myrtle, lilies, tulips, hyacinths, poppies, lavender, wormwood, boxwood, thyme, crocus, moss roses, and pear, fig, apricot, apple and stone pine trees.
The highlight of the garden is the sweeping menorah adorning the Temple's outside wall. It uses the espalier technique to encourage the apricot tree in the shape of the traditional candelabra.
As you leave the garden and prepare to enter the building, you'll see our Holocaust Memorial on your left. The sculpture by Fort Wayne artist Nancy McCroskey seeks to communicate the horror of the Holocaust, the endurance of the Jewish people and the need to remember.
This memorial, in the form of a wall, was inspired by photographs of old synagogues and the Western Wall in Jerusalem. It suggests an account of the historical persecution of the Jewish people throughout the ages. The need to remember the past, which is a central value of Judaism, is reflected in the Hebrew word z'chor -- remember -- which is worked into the clay.
The wall is in the form of two trapezoidal masses giving a feeling of growth and stability. These masses unite around an interior space representing the union of spirit and matter. There are demarcations signifying the 12 tribes of Israel. The hand prints against barbed wire are those of Temple members and their children -- linking them to past generations. The handprints express the anguish and suffering of the martyred millions, yet seem to reach out to us in hope.
The names of victims of the Holocaust who were related to members of the Fort Wayne Jewish community are inscribed on both sides of the memorial. Also inscribed is "Those who had the courage to care," along with the name of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who saved thousands of Hungarian Jews and whose fate is unknown.
As we enter the building, the Temple office is on the right and straight ahead is the main area of worship, the Sanctuary.
The pulpit extends across the entire length of the Sanctuary, with a lectern on the left for sermons and lectures, and an altar on the right side for services and scriptures. The focal point on the pulpit is the Ark, which contains the sacred scrolls of the Torah, the five books of Moses.
The Ark is flanked by two five-and-one-half-foot by 17-foot- high marble pylons. Over one of them hangs suspended the Ner Tamid, the eternal light, which burns continuously day and night as a symbol of God's everpresence as set forth in the Bible. It is the work of world-renowned artist and metal-craftsman Ludwig Wolpert, formerly of the Bezalel School of Art in Jerusalem and the Jewish Museum in New York City. Out of the Ner Tamid's soft steady light emerge seven tongues of flame in bronze -- recalling the first seven days of Creation.
At the foot of the other marble pylon stands the seven- branched candelabrum mentioned in the Bible -- the menorah -- that is lit during services. Our bronze menorah is the second of two of the same design by Wolpert. The other was exhibited at the International Festival of Art in 1958 and described by Frank Lloyd Wright as "a perfection of form, material and function, blended simply into a perfect whole." (Wolpert also designed the bronze letters on the Temple's exterior.)
The Ark is covered by an overhanging wool curtain with silk appliques. The 15-foot-high structure is electrically controlled from the altar, lectern and Ark. The curtain has been designed for the Temple by Samuel Weiner Jr., an American Jewish artist. The colorful background of 12 squares and rectangles represents the banners of the 12 Tribes of ancient Israel. Weiner has depicted the mystic flames of the Burning Bush leaping high into the air to form the four-letter name of God in Hebrew - Yud-Hay-Vov-Hay -- "Adonai-Lord."
Inside the Ark are five Torah scrolls of varying sizes. The texts are the same, but each was written in a different time and came from a different country. The tallest Torah is the oldest, having come from Germany, and had been used prior to 1848. Each Scroll is written in ancient Hebrew by hand on parchment. The most unusual Torah is the Holocaust Torah. (See related item.)
Over the sacred Scrolls are the tablets of the Ten Commandments, with the Hebrew of each commandment carved in wood. The light of the "Ner Tamid" falls softly upon them as a symbol that God makes His will known unto the people of Israel and all humanity through the Ten Commandments that are the spiritual focus of the Torah.
The stained glass windows in the Sanctuary depict the epic of the Jewish people, each representing a period from biblical days to the present. (See related item.)