about Jewish history," says Mr.
Weil. For his part, Rabbi Cohen
took an active interest in the ar-
We learn even more about
their collaboration when Mr. Weil
shows us the display cases de-
voted to Beth Shalom's history.
They include bound volumes of
the extensive correspondence be-
' tween Rabbi Cohen and Mr.
Wright, and even a full-length
book, Together They Build a
Mountain. We also see the orig-
inal letter commissioning Mr.
Wright and even the telegram in
which Mr. Wright arranged the
•original meeting at the Plaza Ho-
Mr. Weil also points out the
dedicaton plaque in the lobby,
which reads: "Conceived by Rabbi
Mortimer J. Cohen. Designed by
Frank Lloyd Wright." The syn-
agogue was finally dedicated on
Sept. 20, 1959.
Still carefully choreographing
his tour, Mr. Weil next takes us
outside, where we look up at the
unusual structure. It is fashioned
of modern materials: concrete,
.steel, aluminum and glass.
Though it looks like a soaring
tent, when it is viewed from
, above, it is actually a hexagon in
That shape, like all the design
details, was very carefully
planned by Mr. Wright.
"Put your two hands together,"
says Mr. Weil, who points out
that when we do, it forms a hexa-
gon 'The architect felt that a syn-
agogue should be resting in the
hands of God."
Standing still further away, we
/ get an even better view of the dra-
matic structure, and we see the
menorot on the three prominent
ridges, which are visible from
Now we're ready to go back
inside. We climb the stairs and
enter the sanctuary.
It is striking — some have
called it breathtaking — and spa-
• cious, with seats for 1,026 wor-
7 shippers. But it is also simple in
design. The floor is covered with
a sand-colored carpet. "That is
symbolic of desert sand," says Mr.
Weil. Above us is a massive dome
made of corrugated plastic and
glass, so that light can shine
through. "You see it's very plain,"
says our guide, "because the ar-
chitect said, 'Let God be the mas-
>ter painter.' "
Suspended from the ceiling is
a huge multi-colored triangular-
shaped chandelier of vivid hues.
This, says Mr. Weil, is based on
the mystic kabbalist belief that
God reveals himself to man
through emanations represented
by different colors.
We also notice a curious tilt to
the floor on both sides of the ark.
"You're praying in the hands of
God," Mr. Weil explains," and
you're always being drawn to the
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