"Mishkan", The Jewish Spirituality Center, Buenos Aires
Haim F. Ghiuzeli
Mishkan – Centro de Espiritualidad Judía – The Jewish Spirituality Center of Buenos Aires was established at the initiative of Rabbi Reuben Nisenbom by a group of his followers and students. Mishkan is a liberal congregation that can be best described by the term “havura” (“brotherhood”, in Hebrew). Although not a religious congregation in the general accepted meaning of the term, it fulfills many of the goals of a religious congregation as well as many community activities serving as a truly community center. Mishkan does not belong to the World Union for Progressive Judaism and nor is it affiliated to any other Jewish religious movement.
The Mishkan Jewish Spirituality Center is a relatively new addition to the many communal institutions of the Jewish community of Buenos Aires, one of the largest Jewish communities in the world and one that has consistently taken care in establishing and maintaining a rich array of religious, educational, social, and cultural organizations and institutions. The decision to establish a new Jewish center that would serve as a focal point for the small congregation made up of the students of Rabbi R. Nisenbom was taken in 1992. The land for the building of the Mishkan Jewish Spirituality Center was purchased in 1998 and the construction work on the building started soon after the plans of the architect Jaime Grinberg and his office. The inauguration ceremony took place on August 27, 2000.
The architecture of the Mishkan Jewish Spirituality Center reflects the general beliefs and approach of the congregation: a respect for tradition combined with the adoption of modern attitudes. The one storey modest façade is decorated with a stylized seven branch candelabrum (menorah), each branch crowned by a letter of the word “mishkan”. The menorah is located high above the entrance situated at the center of the façade between two symmetrical high windows with round arches. The interior comprises a small entry hall that is occasionally used as an extension to the main the prayer hall called Hechal Hakodesh. Although basically a modern edifice, the names of the various parts of the building as well as its design have been chosen to remind elements of the Temple of Jerusalem, also called Mishkan (“Sanctuary”, in Hebrew), while Hechal Hakodesh (“Holy Hall”) reminds its most sacred parts. This association is emphasized by the colors of the interior typical of Jerusalem stones, but also by the arched ceiling. Two large symmetrical half columns recalling an open Torah scroll are located at the sides of the Holy Ark and embrace the bimah situated at the center. The Holy Ark is a wooden structure that contrasts with the interior in stone; it boasts a central cupboard topped by a tympanum with the word mishkan inscribed in Hebrew. The prayer hall of twenty meters by twenty meters along with the extension can shelter up to seven hundreds worshipers, men and women sitting together on rows of simple modern chairs facing the Holy Ark. In addition to the prayer hall and the entry hall, the Center houses a library, three study rooms, a mikveh (ritual bath) and a number of rooms serving the administrative needs of the congregation.
The Mishkan is a vibrant congregation attached to the values of Judaism while displaying a strong community involvement as reflected in the numerous social and cultural activities undertaken by its members. It also serves as a study center offering a number of curses dealing with various aspects of Jewish religious and cultural heritage.
Mishkan – Centro de Espiritualidad Judía
Mcal. Antonio j. DE Sucre 1420/24
1428 Buenos Aires
E-mail: [email protected]
This article was made possible with the kind assistance of Roxana Dublisky de Zusmanovsky and Diana Akawie, Argentina, and Julio Mazo, Israel.