Zabludow wooden Synagogue Bimah. Model on display at Florida Atlantic University. Constructed by Albert Barry.

 

The main square hall of the synagogue which was slightly sunk below the vestibule floor level, had above it an elliptical barrel vault inscribed into the roof's truss. A "kiosk-type" central bimah was placed on the east facing axis of the hall not too far from the entrance. Only men were in the main hall. Along the north and south walls were two prayer rooms for women, and a third one over the vestibule. The bimah is believed to have been built in the mid 18th Century, and carved by ax and other rough instruments. The bimah is designed in the shape of a tower with windows and arches, and a decorative ballistrade

The Bimah was one of the two principle architectural elements of worship: the ark (Aron ha-kodesh) contained the Torah scrolls and the Bimah (raised platform). The Torah scrolls were taken from Ark to the Bimah which functioned as a centrally positioned reading platform with a shulchan or reading desk. There the Torah scrolls were undressed, unrolled, and read to the congregation in Hebrew. This structure defined the space of Jewish worship since the third to sixth centuries C.E. Worship was directed eastward toward the ark, and symbolically toward Jerusalem. The bimah is said to represent the altar that once stood in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem.

According to Thomas Hubka in his book Resplendent Synagogue. Architecture and Worship in an Eighteenth-Century Polish Community, " The symbolic purpose for the ark and bimah gives clarity to two levels of pre and post Temple worship. On the one hand, the ark, located on the eastern-oriented axis, is the focus of the post-Second Temple, synagogue-oriented worship. Thus the ark and its eastern wall are the spatial focus for most daily and festival prayer of the rabbinical liturgy. On the other hand, it is the bimah, not the ark, that is the central architectural focus of the prayer hall. The bimah represents an earlier, Second Temple period of worship, when the platform was used to deliver the Priestly Blessing as well as for reading the Torah. These practices recall the oldest forms of Jewish worship and the former rituals of the Temple".

American synagogues around the turn of the nineteenth century abandoned this "old world", Eastern-European synagogue plan, with the central bimah and a separate women's gallery. This old world model was gradually displaced by the American Reform synagogue arrangement, one that combines the bimah and ark at the front of the congregation and eliminates the separate women's section. Thomas Hubka suggests that these changes, "mark the gradual abandonment of a long tradition of Ashkenazi Orthodoxy and the ascendancy of the American Reform Movement".

 

Photo of Zabludow Bimah

 

Photo from from Zabludow bimah toward the ark

 

Another view from Bimah toward the Ark

 

Zabludow bimah with Cantor?

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