What a difference a dome makes. Oseh Shalom in Laurel has a new dome atop its sanctuary, replacing one that had crowned the Reconstructionist synagogue since 1991.
Made of fiberglass sheets that are usually used for skylights, the dome was badly deteriorating, said Barry Nove, Oseh Shalom’s facilities manager. “The light that was coming in was yellow.”
The original dome was disassembled Dec. 18-19, one 75-pound sheet at a time, and the new dome was installed the same way.
“This is pristine white all the way through,” Nove said of the light that now streams into the sanctuary from above, making the space three times brighter during the day.
The new dome has a coating of glass on the outside that will extend its life. Nove doesn’t expect Oseh Shalom will need to replace it again for another 30 to 40 years.
Domes are a common architectural motif in the Middle East. In the United States, the great age of domed synagogues began in the late 19th century and lasted through the 1920s, said synagogue historian Samuel Gruber, author of “American Synagogues: A Century of Architecture and Jewish Community.”
“Domes are architecturally interesting,” he says. “People like them because they unify the space and you can read in a lot of symbolism, if you want to.”
The Hebrew word for dome is kippah, and like that religious head covering, the dome “inspires us to look beyond ourselves,” said Oseh Shalom’s Rabbi Doug Heifetz. “The dome is one of our most central motifs. It calls us to look higher, to aim for the highest possible vision of ourselves and our world.”