Orthodox Synagogue serving Syrian Jewish community from Aleppo
Congregation Shaare Zion is an Orthodox Sephardic Synagogue that serves the descendants of the Aleppo Syrian Jewish Community. The synagogue typically has an estimated 2,000 worshipers attending weekly Sabbath services, as well as holiday services. Shaare Zion is one the largest Sephardic synagogues in North America. In its over fifty years of existence it has hosted over 10,000 special occasions, including weddings, Brit Milahs (circumcisions), and Bar Mitzvahs.
The main sanctuary in Congregation Shaare Zion has a very unique design thanks to the renowned architect Morris Lapidus. The room is circular shaped with a large concrete dome that is reinforced by steel rods. Suspended from the dome is a gold-coated chandelier, designed with artful scrollwork and representations of the Biblical 7-day creation theme, as well as Stars of David. The sanctuary also has a magnificent curved balcony. The balcony has no visible supporting columns; rather it is cantilevered off the room’s main support structure. In the most front area of the sanctuary is a 20-foot tall marble alter that holds twelve silver encased Torah scrolls. The carpet and velvet chair upholstery is changed whenever seen fit, usually every five to ten years. A major part of the sanctuary’s notoriety stems from these physical attributes.
In December 2011, there was a proposed expansion of the synagogues facilities. Brooklyn Community Board 15 voted down the proposal, as congregants and other neighborhood residents strongly opposed the development. The proposal included a six story, 62-foot tall, extension building. The building would have been used for classroom, study rooms, multi-purpose space, and prayer rooms. Opponents of the construction plans presented opinions about noise, garbage, parking, and less sunlight. The Board of Standards and Appeals will give a final decision if appealed by synagogue committee members. If any of the physical characters of the sanctuary were to be changed I surely would not be the only one that would miss them.
This place matters greatly to my community and me because it is a place of coming together, a place where unbreakable bonds are made with other neighborhood residents, and a place that continues to generate community closeness.