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.

Go to Top

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).

Go to Top

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.

Go to Top

RAA Hindu Temple Metro Washington

Hindu Temple of Metropolitan Washington

Sikhara (mountain) of the Hindu Temple

The Hindu Temple of Metropolitan Washington was established as a place of worship in 1988. Its purpose has always been both to provide an avenue for prayer in the traditional manner of the Hindu faith and also to be a site for the Hindu community to come together to strengthen Hindu cultural bonds and values. This picture shows the sikhara of the temple, a symbolic holy mountain over the most holy shrine of the temple. This temple was among the first of the Hindu temples in the area, and has grown along with the growing Hindu population. Originally, members met for services in a single-family home, but this majestic temple was built in 2006.

The Hindu religion is among the oldest of all religions, having roots going far back into even the pre-history of India. Over the millennia, it has been influenced by outside forces and in turn has been the inspirational seed for newer religions. In spite of its ancient roots, it has kept itself fresh and current for modern Hindus. Additionally, it is worth noting that Hinduism has not constrained itself over much with regard to beliefs, and the local Hinduism of different localities has been incorporated into the larger religion. This has resulted in a cultural mindset that is both flexible and accepting of other religious beliefs. Also, the multitude of beliefs has contributed the notion that Hinduism is polytheistic religion, but that is a simplistic view, since most Hindus do believe in a single god, but that god can be approached from different view points.

The Hindu diaspora in America has grown dramatically, increasing ten-fold from 1980 to 2013. This has been a blessing for the individual Hindu, but also a challenge for maintaining cultural continuity in the next generation, many of whom seem ready to reject their own culture and identity. The Hindu Temple of Metropolitan Washington has a role to play in making Hindu faith and culture relevant to the next generation.

Go to Top

Shrine to Lord Hanuman outside the Hindu Temple

This shrine to Lord Hanuman is outside next to the Hindu Temple. Hanuman is an important and beloved chiranjivi (immortal) in Hinduism, whose first impression is that of being a monkey. He exemplifies many virtues and is a symbol of nationalism and resistance to persecution. He was a central character in support of Rama, one of the incarnations of Vishnu, in the epic tale Ramayana, the story of struggle against evil.

The sign below him shows a transliteration of a popular aarti prayer to Hanuman, which would be sung while holding a tray with oil lamps. On the wall behind him is a contributer acknowledgement board honoring those who have contributed to the building of the temple, who thus demonstrated virtues of Hanuman.

Go to Top

Closeup of Lord Hanuman outside the Hindu Temple

This closeup of Lord Hanuman allows you to see him in greater detail. The installation of an image such as this requires great learning and care and reverence to ensure the successful infusion of the image with the holy presence of G-d, which is then worshipped by Hindus to help them attain greater spiritual energy in their lives. Worship of course includes prayers, but also sacrifices such as the fruit at the feet of Hanuman. No one imagines that Hanuman actually eats the sacrifices, but the sacrifice itself shows reverence to G-d as represented in the image. The good looking clothes on the image of Lord Hanuman also show respect.

Go to Top