Our History and Buildinghistory and building blue

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.

Micah Today

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.Bressler - New building

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:

Living History Project

The Living History Team has created 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.

The Living History Project is now live!

Take a Tour of Micah

When you approach Temple Micah, we hope you immediately feel welcomed into a sacred space. With that in mind our exterior incorporates such symbolism as Stars of David, two tablets engraved in Hebrew with the abbreviated version of the Ten Commandments, and columns representing the columns (“Joachim” and “Boaz”) of Solomon’s Temple in ancient Jerusalem. The Hebrew phrase “Eitz Chayim Hi” (“It is a tree of life”), referring to the Torah, sits directly above the entrance and the blue accent stripe around the top of the building alludes to blue threads in the prayer shawl (tallit), so that you feel you are entering a house of worship when you come to Micah.
Our sanctuary and arks are designed to connect our present to our history. The sanctuary’s simple shape and extensive use of wood reflect the simplicity of 19th century synagogues in Eastern Europe, and provide lively acoustics. The sand color of the oak and stone evokes the Sinai desert; accents of crimson, blue, and purple recall the “priestly colors” of the Bible. The twelve high square windows in the side walls represent the twelve tribes of Israel, and the four groups of three penetrations on the end walls stand for the three Fathers and four Mothers of Judaism. Sanctuary

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.

Our arks have been with us since the Temple’s days in Southwest DC and serve as a reminder of both the history of Micah and the Jewish people. Designed to recall Mount Sinai, our arks remind us that we symbolically receive the Torah from Sinai at every service.
TempleMicah324-(ZF-9358-08690-1-048)Temple Micah’s lending library offers more than 3,000 volumes, including a large reference collection and annual subscriptions to several journals and newspapers. The library resides in two places. The Reading Room, upstairs off the galleria, contains a large collection of nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and four special sections: biography, family life, kol isha, and cookbooks. The Reading Room is a place to relax, browse and borrow whatever is of interest.

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.

Our entire library catalog is now available online here.

TempleMicah171-(ZF-7104-42424-1-016)Temple Micah’s Judaica Shop carries a large selection of Jewish ritual objects, children’s Jewish educational books and toys, and gifts. We carry such items as tallitot and kippot, mezuzot, kiddush cups, shabbat candlesticks and candles, menorahs and Hanukkah candles, seder plates, and other gifts.

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 memorial scrolls trustthe 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.