Cymbalista Center at Tel Aviv University designated as heritage site

The synagogue and heritage center is now the youngest building with this distinction.

 The Cymbalista Synagogue and Jewish Heritage Center. (photo credit: MOSHE BEDRASHI)
The Cymbalista Synagogue and Jewish Heritage Center.
(photo credit: MOSHE BEDRASHI)

Tel Aviv University’s Cymbalista Synagogue and Jewish Heritage Center was designated as a protected heritage site by the Council for the Conservation of Heritage Sites in Israel, according to a press release from the university. Having only been completed in 1998, the synagogue is the most recently constructed building with this status.

The building was commissioned by Norbert Cymbalista, a Swiss real estate developer, and his wife, Paulette. Although he initially planned for the building to serve only as a synagogue, Cymbalista decided to expand the project after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. The shocking event emphasized to him that the rift between secular and religious Israelis was the country’s most dangerous challenge, the release noted.

What is included?

As a result, the building was constructed to include a synagogue, auditorium, study hall and Judaica museum, designed to bridge the gaps between religious and secular Israelis in addition to members of different Jewish denominations in an academic environment. 

“I am thrilled for the new designation, which reaffirms my decision to create a space in the spirit of respect for tradition, but also in the realization that dialogue and acceptance of different viewpoints are essential for Israel’s development as a democratic society,” Cymbalista said in the release.

 The Cymbalista Synagogue. (credit: TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY) The Cymbalista Synagogue. (credit: TEL AVIV UNIVERSITY)

“I am thrilled for the new designation, which reaffirms my decision to create a space in the spirit of respect for tradition, but also in the realization that dialogue and acceptance of different viewpoints are essential for Israel’s development as a democratic society.”

Swiss real estate developer Norbert Cymbalista

“I hope that the Cymbalista Synagogue and Jewish Heritage Center will continue to serve as a focal point of activity and that I will see its impact on further strengthening ties in my lifetime.”

Architecturally, the center is uniquely designed to resemble a Torah scroll from the outside. It also combines elements from around the world. A project of Swiss architect Mario Botta, the building features an ark made of Pakistani onyx, walls made of stone from Tuscany, granite floors from Zimbabwe, exterior stone from the Dolomites and a Swiss wooden ceiling, the release explained.

“Cymbalista Synagogue and Jewish Heritage Center is situated at the heart of the campus and is a symbol and an example of unity and community,” Ariel Porat, Tel Aviv University’s president, remarked in the release. “The Center reflects the liberal and pluralistic nature of Tel Aviv University.”

The Cymbalista Synagogue and Jewish Heritage Center was designated as a heritage site due to its unique social and architectural aspects. Its new status both marks the center as a historically significant building and ensures its preservation.

“The new designation is an immense honor for the Center, and an exciting recognition of its architectural and cultural importance,” Dr. Yair Lipshitz, the center’s head, said in the release. “Its multipurpose functionality offers a complex, dynamic and unique interplay between the various facets of being Jewish in Israel today. The preservation of such a building as a heritage landmark ensures the endurance of the vision that is set in its stones – a vision for a rich, pluralistic, multi-voiced Israeli culture.”