A Shared Space, 1963-1995
“Channeling the spirit of the 1960s into a congregation of equality, diversity and creativity, [Temple Micah} founded a home to experiment with their faith and repair the world…Years later, the Southwest Hebrew Congregation, as it was first called, has become one of America’s most influential Reform Synagogue: Temple Micah” –The Washington Post on Micah’s 50th Anniversary (2012)
Temple Micah was founded in 1963 as the Southwest Hebrew Congregation. Our congregation initially occupied temporary spaces near the waterfront area in Southwest DC. We affiliated with the Reform movement in 1965; the following year, we began a space-sharing arrangement with St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church at 600 M Street SW. This 28-year marriage was one of the nation’s longest-running experiments in Jewish/Christian ecumenicism.
In 1968, at the height of the Vietnam War, we changed our name to reflect the prophet Micah’s vision that “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
Temple Micah’s rapid growth in membership and religious school enrollment eventually led to the decision to seek new space, and we found a new home in Northwest DC. Temple Micah dedicated its new building in September 1995. It was the first new synagogue built in the District of Columbia in 38 years.
Our building was constructed with intentionality and commitment to our ideals. As a matter of ethical principle, the building was constructed using union labor, and there are no plaques or other recognition for any individual donor. The building is fully accessible, and the sanctuary has a closed circuit audio system to assist the hearing impaired.
Because we strive to make Micah a community home, a “house” or gable motif is repeated inside and out — at the front door, in the sanctuary entry, throughout the galleria space, and at the ends of the sanctuary. The Temple itself is divided into three houses, which reflect the core elements of life at Micah:
- Our sanctuary and the northern part of the building and comprise our Beit Tefila, a house of prayer. We hope for the prayer experience at Micah to be one where everyone feels at home.
- Our classrooms and the southern portion of our building comprise a Beit Sefer, house of study or school. Micah strives to establish a community-wide love for deep Jewish learning.
- The light-filled galleria in the center of our building serves as our Beit Knesset, or house of community. Since we value creating spaces for fun, joy, and community, many of our groups and events meet here.
Living History Project
The Living History Team is creating an interactive digital living history of Temple Micah. You can participate by providing information, slices of history, videos, photos, and anecdotes. Contact the office for more information.
Take a Tour of Micah
When you stand in our sanctuary, we hope you see reminders of both present holiness and our Jewish history all around you. Around the upper walls of the sanctuary is a piece of wood trim or frieze, inscribed with sayings from the Tanach – The Torah, N’vi’im (prophets), and K’tuvim (writings) that speak to our mission and values. We invite you to the sanctuary to read the verses. We have a guide to the verses in the lobby.
The stained glass on the eastern wall incorporates the priestly colors in a braided pattern reminiscent of challah and the havdalah candle, representing the six days of the week with the Sabbath shining above the other days.
Below the arch, our ner tamid (eternal light), lit with natural gas, is an 1862 memorial lamp from Israel. A piece of Jerusalem stone from Israel abuts the bookcase at the sanctuary’s entrance.
A “quiet” room, adjoining the sanctuary, enables parents of young children to be part of the service if they would prefer not to sit in the main sanctuary. However, we hope that parents know that we welcome the voice of young ones in our worship services.
The Beit Midrash, downstairs, houses our reference collection, as well as volumes on Bible and Talmud. There is a special niche full of great books for our children.
All proceeds from the Judaica Shop benefit the Temple.
Hours: Sundays and Tuesday evenings (during religious school) or by appointment. Contact the Office to make an appointment, order an item, or get more information.
Temple Micah is honored to have been entrusted by the Memorial Scrolls Trust with caring for two Torah Scrolls, survivors and witnesses of the Shoah: MST#1531 from Ivancice since 1966 and MST#360 from Kolin since 1982. We are still able to read from both scrolls regularly.
Jews had lived in Bohemia and Moravia for more than a thousand years, and over that time a rich Jewish culture developed, centered mostly in Prague. According to the 1930 census, there were 117,551 Jews in Bohemia and Moravia (356,830 in all of Czechoslovakia). By 1943 some 26,000 had managed to emigrate. Some 81,000 Jews were deported to Terezin and other camps, of whom about 10,500 survived. Today, the population of the Czech Republic is ten million, of which 4,000 are Jewish.
In 1942, members of Prague’s Jewish community devised a way to bring the religious treasures from the deserted communities and destroyed synagogues to the comparative safety of Prague. The Nazis were persuaded to accept the plan and more than 100,000 artifacts were brought to the Central Jewish Museum in Prague, including about 2,000 Torah scrolls. Each was meticulously recorded, labeled and entered on a card index by the museum’s staff with a description of the scroll and the place it had come from.
In 1964, 1,564 of these scrolls were acquired from Czech government and sent to the Westminster Synagogue in London who distributed some 1400 scrolls on loan around the world. Subsequently the Memorial Scrolls Trust was set up to continue taking care of them.