About Our Building
We purchased our new building at 200 W. Dundee Road in April 2013 and remodeled it over the summer. Our dedication was held on August 18, 2013, in a joyous event attended by hundreds of members, friends, and honored guests, including Congressman Brad Schneider, Illinois State Representative Elaine Nekritz, Village of Wheeling President Dean S. Argiris, and other local officials, along with representatives from a number of area synagogues and Jewish organizations. Close to 300 Shir Hadash members and guests gathered to celebrate the opening of the synagogue’s first building, more than 18 years after a small group of families founded the congregation. The building features a newly constructed sanctuary, inviting public spaces, administrative offices, classrooms, a large teen lounge, an attractive conference room, a library, and two acres of land.
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Our new sanctuary was designed by synagogue architect Mehran Farahmandpour and draws much of its inspiration from Jewish tradition and history. “The overall design idea was to represent our current view of the Torah while emphasizing our roots in Israel, our people and our traditions, hence a relatively simple and contemporary design using traditional materials such as wood and Jerusalem stone,” he said.
The white Jerusalem stone next to the ark represents “our connection to Israel and the Temple mound,” he said. The stone features open grout joints which allow congregants to slip written prayers in the joints as they would in the Western Wall, he said. Each time a synagogue member travels to Israel, he or she will be tasked with the job of bringing those written prayers to the Western Wall and inserting them there.
A glass plank, running nearly from floor to ceiling and featuring 12 panes of glass, represent the 12 tribes of Israel. “They will eventually be replaced by some kind of decorative elements, like fused glass, wood, blocks, etchings, bronze castings or other medium that would bear the names and or symbols of the tribes of Israel,” he said. They are designed to remind congregants of their heritage and to represent the connection to the Jewish people. “The Nir Tamid, a larger piece of glass above the tribes, represents the eternal presence of God that is above all tribes of Israel, to watch and protect, he said.
The ark is made of sapele, and the plank is constructed of burled walnut, which was also used in the lectern. “We used warm and richly textured woods to give some warmth to the austere room,” Farahmandpour said. “Wood tones were selected to contrast the brick background so they could stand out.” The glass doors on the ark are covered temporarily by a decorative film. Eventually, it will be replaced by a yet to be developed design, he said.
Not only is the bima (stage) wheelchair accessible, but the ark was designed so that somebody in a wheelchair can roll right up to it and take out a Torah without assistance.
The final ark design was reached through a collaborative process with the congregation. Farahmandpour created half a dozen ark designs for synagogue leadership to review, running the gamut from contemporary designs to one that looked like a Sephardic jewelry box. (Sephardic Jews are the descendants of the Jews who were expelled from Spain and Portugal in the late 1500s and settled in Salonica, Constantinople, Baghdad, Morocco, Algeria, the Americas, North Africa, and even India, among other places.) Synagogue leadership weighed in on the designs, and three were presented to the congregation at a special service in May. Based on feedback from that service, Faramandpour combined different elements from each design to create the unique final design. The end result: the ark is a striking and visually harmonious mix of materials that fits perfectly in the space.