Maura Smolover’s Vision For Our New Ark

Maura Smolover describes her vision of the new ark While this year marks a year of change for Congregation Kol Ami, it also marks my father’s 62nd consecutive year on its bima and as many years as I have been coming to celebrate the High Holidays. This Yom Kippur, as we awaited our turn and watched other friends and families approach the ark, I could not help but think of how much has changed over more than half a century. And I smiled as I realized that, while this “tradition” has become such a significant part of Kol Ami’s communal experience; I could recall when it was a new, and some considered radical change. Our tradition tells us to “Shiru L’Adonai Shir Hadash,” to “Sing a New Song.” Not just because it is new; but because by doing so, each generation must accept and carry out the challenge to add something that is as beautiful and as meaningful as that which it has been give. This challenge holds great insight and is itself a wise and sustaining tradition. So this High Holidays, I listened with anticipation, as Shira described the vision of a sanctuary and bima that are designed for Kol Ami’s evolving worship practices and that nurture its closer interaction between our clergy and congregants. It is with these thoughts in mind, that I begin the challenge of creating a new ark. Its goal will be to reflect this new vision. Mirroring the way in which the bima comes forward to more intimately engage with the congregation, the ark will beckon congregants to enter within its space. In doing so, it will create an additional dimension. It will become more than an object containing our scrolls; more than an object that we stand in front of. It will be a larger sacred space which we enter to sanctify our life cycles. Within in its spatial embrace and surrounded by the Torahs that scribe our collective history, we can name our newborns, charge our b’nai mitzvah, bless our newly weds and return each Yom Kippur to mark our family’s journeys, becoming a link in that chain of history. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to, together, celebrate the “mystery of our unique history” and to accept our generation’s challenge to “sing a new song.”