RAA Magen David Sephardic Congregation

Magen David Sephardic Congregation, Beit Eliyahu Synagogue

Building of Magen David Sephardic Congregation, Beit Eliyahu Synagogue

Magen David Sephardic Congregation, Beit Eliyahu Synagogue has been the premier Sephardic Congregation in the Washington, DC, area since it was founded in 1966. It is quite diverse: Jews from Morocco, from Egypt, from Syria, from Iraq, from Iran, from India, and even a few Ashkenazi (European) Jews. Congregants have also included Jews from Ethiopia at times. Every sort of Jew can feel comfortable at this veritable rainbow Synagogue.

The glass doors allow in a lot of light. Over the doors is a brass colored image of a Sephardic style Torah tik, which is a round case that protects the Torah scroll, both when it is read and also when it is stored. The shape of the windows reflects the Moslem influence on Sephardic Jews.

Inside the Sanctuary

After you walk in the front door of the Synagogue and straight through the lobby, you then enter the sanctuary (seen here). Beautifying a mitzvah is an important element of Judaism, and is quite evident in the sanctuary, where so many prayer-oriented mitzvot occur. The structure in the middle, the Tevah, is for prayer leading and holy readings. At the far end you can see the raised Bima and the Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark). The sanctuary enjoys several beautiful Middle Eastern carpets typical of those featured in the lives of Jews from Moslem countries, where many Sephardic Jews formerly lived.

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Wide view of the elevated Bima

The raised Bima is a spiritual center of the sanctuary, raised like the altar in the Temple that formerly stood in Jerusalem. On the Bima is the Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark), the home of the Torah scrolls and the Haftarah scroll. Adorning the walls on either side are brass menorot (candelabras), harkening back to the menorah in the Temple in Jerusalem. On one side of the Bima is an American flag, showing Jew’s loyalty to America, and on the other side an Israeli flag, showing Jew’s love of Israel. Below is a closeup image of the Aron Kodesh.

Closeup of the Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark)

This closeup of the Aron Kodesh (Holy Ark) shows many of its details more clearly. The doors of the Ark, with a curtain behind them, harken back to the Holy of Holies in the temple that formerly stood in Jerusalem, as does also the Ner Tamid (Eternal or "Always" Light) that hangs in front of the Holy Ark, and that in Temple times provided illumination inside of the Temple. The words immediately above the Holy Ark say "Know Before Whom You Stand," taken from a saying of the great sage Akiva. Above these words are the Ten Commandments held up by two Lions of Judah. Note that the term “Jew” is derived from the name of the tribe "Judah," but no Jews today know their particular tribe except for the Cohenim and Levites, so Jews today just identify as part of the wide community of Jews. The stars behind the Ten Commandments may refer to the eleven stars in a dream of Joseph, which refer to his eleven brothers. Around the stars are a large number of the symbol "Magen David," which of course refers to the name of this Synagogue, but is also an important symbol for Jews everywhere.

Tevah ... the readers area

This structure is called the Tevah, and is supposed to suggest the ark that saved Noah and all life on earth, and also the small ark that saved Moses. The purpose of the Tevah is to be a center for the leading of prayers and for holy readings (Torah and Haftarah).

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The Chair of Elijah the Prophet

Jewish boys are required to be circumcised on the eighth day after birth, known as the (Brit Mila). This Synagogue has an elaborate and beautiful Kisei Eliyahu Hanavi (Chair of Elijah the Prophet), which is the site of this important and identifying mitzvah.

The womens section of the Synagogue

Orthodox men and women are not permitted to pray together, in order to ensure that they are not distracted. This is one of the two sections where the women sit. When the Torah is carried around the Synagogue, it makes a stop here for the women.

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RAA Franciscan Monastery Holy Land

Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America

Click here to go directly to the links to the photo galleries of the Franciscan Monastery > > >

View of church from the southwest

Suppose you can’t afford to visit the “Holy Land,” Roman Catacombs, or Lourdes in southern France, but you know that seeing any of those holy places for yourself would be a faith building experience. Well, here is the answer: visit the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in the Brookland neighborhood of Washington, DC. There you can find not only the beautiful Franciscan Monastery church, where services are held daily, but also re-creations of the catacombs, which were refuges and burial places of early Roman Christians, accurate re-creations of “Holy Land” sites both inside the church and out in the lovely gardens, and also a re-creation of the grotto of Lourdes where the peasant girl, Bernadette Soubirous, had visions of the Virgin Mary. You can see all of these and more right here in Washington, DC.

Statue of St. Francis holding dove next to a youth

The Franciscan order of monks was founded by a man, Francis of Assisi (who became Saint Francis of Assisi), who promoted an ascetic life of poverty and who wanted to rebuild the spiritual strength of the Catholic Church. He received approval in 1209 from Pope Innocent III for his mission, and worked tirelessly to achieve it, gaining followers who followed in his footsteps.

Here he is shown with a child and doves, both of which are frequent art motifs when depicting Saint Francis, to portray his gentleness.

Statue of St. Francis holding baby Jesus, lily, and book

Saint Francis is also often represented in art holding the baby Jesus, lilies of purity, and a book of learning. Creating and running organizations was not his greatest strength, but rather he was inspirational to so many people, and he succeeded in inspiring people who were good organizers and managers to establish multiple orders of friars who experienced great successes throughout the Christian world. There are now Franciscan monasteries throughout the world, and especially in the near east, where they have a mandate to maintain Roman Catholic holy sites and they help the poor.

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Statue of Father Godfrey Schilling

The Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land was the child of Father Godfrey Schilling, O.F.M., who along with the Very Reverend Charles A. Vassani, envisioned a “holy land in America” in the late nineteenth century. Father Schilling’s vision was achieved during the course of two decades, during which time he traveled in the “holy land” to take pictures and photographs of holy sites to ensure accurate reproduction.

View of church from the northwest

The church, called The Memorial Church of the Holy Sepulcher, was consecrated in 1924, built on a hill that was called “Mount Saint Sepulcher.” The church was designed by the famous architect Aristide Leonori, in the neo-Byzantine style, resembling the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. The statue to the right of the flag pole is that of Father Godfrey Schilling.

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Looking down cloister toward chapel mosaic of Jesus in Gethsemane

The church is surrounded by a cloistered walkway, which includes small chapels with mosaics commemorating episodes in the life and death of Jesus. In this chapel, we see a mosaic of Christ praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.

View of the monastery, where the monks live

The Monastery grounds contain replicas of shrines in the “Holy Land,” a Lourdes grotto, and a replica of the Portiuncola chapel, where Saint Franscis started his work of rebuilding the Catholic Church, first by rebuilding the chapel. The Franciscan Monastery itself (at left), where the monks live, is in the neo-Romanesque style, and is attached to the church.

Western door to the church, with two styles of cross and image of Christ above the doors

The Memorial Church of the Holy Sepulcher is entered from the west side (facing Quincy Street, NE. Over the door is the likeness of Jesus, to the left of Jesus is the Tau Cross, and to the right is the Jerusalem (or Crusader’s) Cross.

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