Inspiring inner sanctums

The uplifting power of the prayers and the liturgy, the melodic traditional tunes, the beauty of the Torah scrolls -- all are enhanced by the beauty and elegance of the synagogue itself.

Synagogue Porat Josef Yeshiva (photo credit: LAVI FURNITURE INDUSTRIES)
Synagogue Porat Josef Yeshiva
The synagogue is where Jews congregate to pray, to commune with the Almighty. Throughout our long history, Jews have built places of worship, starting with the Mishkan, the portable tabernacle in the wilderness of the Sinai Desert, to the magnificent Temples built by King Solomon and King Herod, to the synagogues of our own day.
According to Jewish tradition, a congregation is created once 10 adult males gather together wherever that may be. That means that to conduct religious services on weekdays, the Sabbath or the Jewish holidays, it is not necessary to have an imposing building, as according to Jewish law, any place will do.
Nevertheless, Jewish communities around the world have always constructed imposing buildings that reflect the glory of the Almighty and the community's desire to connect to and honour him.
There are many examples of these magnificent buildings that, at the time of their construction, quickly became urban landmarks. These include the Grand Choral Synagogue in St. Petersburg, renamed the Safra Choral; the Great Synagogue in Rome; the Stadttempel Synagogue of Vienna; the Orianenburg Synagogue in Berlin; the Dohany Synagogue in Budapest; the Central Synagogue in New York; the Great Synagogue in Tel Aviv; and the Great Synagogue in Jerusalem. These buildings vie in magnificence with the most imposing cathedrals and reflect the power and opulence of the communities that built them.
But while the exterior of these buildings reflect the wealth and power of the builders, the soul of the structure resides in the interior. The synagogue experience – the uplifting power of the prayers and the liturgy, the melodic traditional tunes, the beauty of the Torah scrolls -- are all enhanced by the beauty and elegance of the synagogue itself. Jews have always felt the need to pray and study in surroundings that are spiritually uplifting and inspiring.
And that is what drives Lavi Furniture Industries It is the world’s largest supplier of furniture for synagogues, yeshivot and batei midrash.
The company, which started out as a manufacturer of seating solutions for synagogues, has become an overall purveyor of synagogue interiors. This includes not only the seating arrangements but also cabinets, the pulpit, and the Holy Ark where the Torah scrolls are kept.
Lavi has been in business for more than 50 years, during which time it has service over 5,400 clients, from Australia and Europe to North and South America and such fat away places such as Tahiti and Angola.
Lavi Furniture industries is located in Kibbutz Lavi a modern orthodox Kibbutz funded in 1949 by a group of kinder transport kids who grew up in England, the knowledge they gained from experiencing religious life and building their own Shul in the early sixties helped the Kibbutz and then the Lavi Lavi Furniture Industries to understand the needs and interior design motifs for synagogues around the world.
The company employs leading craftsmen such as master wood carvers metal workers etc. Synagogue interiors have has both lovely wood work and artistic metal works in bronze iron and precious and at Lavi they are executed by master craftsmen.
Micha Oberman, the CEO of the company, is justly very proud of the work they do and the connection built with Jewish communities in the Diaspora.
“Designing and planning the interior of a synagogue is a complex process,” he says. “It entails the combining of many different skills and many different materials to provide the finished product to the complete satisfaction of the client. We work very closely with the client, since they know best the unique requirements of the community for whom the synagogue is being built or refurbished.”
The company is also involved in array of special projects. One of its most exciting recent projects was the restoration of the Great Synagogue of Yaslo in eastern Galicia, which was burned by the Germans when they invaded Poland in 1939. Five years later, the German army deported the entire population because the town was at the edge of the eastern front of the German army and impeded military operations. In the fighting that ensued, the town was completely destroyed and with it what remained of the synagogue.
The Jewish community of Forest Hills in Toronto has rebuilt the Great Synagogue of Yaslo just as before the war. Lavi Furniture Industries took charge of all the interior furnishings -- the seating, the cabinets, the pulpit, and the impressive Ark.
As Oberman explains, this was no easy feat. Only a few photographs of the exterior and the interior of the synagogue remain.
“Building the exterior of the synagogue was a challenge in itself, but it was nothing compared with the task of reconstructing the interior. But we took the challenge, and the end results exceeded our expectations,” he says.
Indeed, only a company with the know-how and experience of Lavi Furniture Industries could have undertaken such a daunting task and succeeded.
"We had very little with which to work, as there were only a couple of black-and-white pictures of the interior. To ensure a successful reconstruction we began in-depth research. For example, we spoke to the few Jews from Yaslo who survived the Holocaust and had prayed in the synagogue. The major source of information came from studying other synagogues in similar shtetls in the surrounding areas and compared the interiors of those synagogues with the few pictures of the Yaslo synagogue. Together with the vast knowledge we have accumulated over more than 50 years, we were able to create a truly magnificent reconstruction of the interior of the old synagogue of Yaslo. I am proud to have taken part in bringing back to life a very important part of Jewish community in Eastern Europe that was annihilated by the Nazis,” says the CEO.
The synagogue is the centre of Jewish communal life, whether it's a restoration or a new building, an established community or a nascent one. Lavi prides itself on having such an important part in creating the synagogue the key elements that connect community members to each other and the to the Almighty.