Breaking News
More () »

Sacred Spaces: Temple Beth Israel on Cherry Street in Macon

The building is currently on the national registry of historic places, but 163 years ago, things looked a lot different.

MACON, Ga. — Three years ago, Rabbi Elizabeth Bahar interviewed for a job at Temple Beth Israel in Macon.

"The first time I walked into the sanctuary I was blown away how gorgeous it was, the light that was just coming in the stained glass the dome the eye of God all of it was gorgeous," she described.

Credit: Suzanne Lawler

Temple Beth Israel is beautiful.

The building is currently on the national registry of historic places, but 163 years ago, things looked a lot different.

In what became Temple Beth Israel, a group of Jewish people rented a second story room here on Cherry Street. 

The rent was $12, and the following year they bought a Torah which was $110.

"It was so imperative that the congregation have a place to meet," Bahar said.

Rabbi Bahar says that in the early days, temple leaders asked folks to commit to giving for 3 years to buy a building.

Credit: Suzanne Lawler

Joan Becker's roots go back five generations at Temple Beth Israel.

"One of the things my Mom took pride in is this is the largest reform congregations in the country," she recalled.

A reform congregation means a few things. One of them is that they speak both English and Hebrew during the service.

In today's sanctuary, the striking feature is the eye that stares down from the center of the room.

"When you sit here and see the eye of God watching you you also understand that eye accompanies you when you exit to be mindful of what we stand for at all times," Bahar explained.

"I do remember as a small child the colors streaming through and I also remember being terrified of the eye of God in the dome," Becker recalled. "He has age spots under his eyes too. I'm not sure anyone told him about sun protection."

The Torah, or the Jewish word of God, sits protected in ornate cloth on the altar in what's called the ark.

"The Torahs are made out of parchment so we don't want to touch the parchment with our oily hands and ruin it, Bahar said with a pointer in her hand.

Credit: Suzanne Lawler

At the top of one wall, 7 stained-glass angels represent the 7 days of creation.

As for this congregation, they've created a Sacred Space that's lasted through the decades.

Credit: Suzanne Lawler

"There's just something beautiful that happens when people get together and pray, Bahar said with a smile!

The temple is partnering with 9 other faith groups to host an inter-faith thanksgiving service on Thursday night at 6 p.m. at Mulberry Street United Methodist Church.

They invite folks to come out and participate in a service project after the service.


Sacred Spaces: The humble beginnings of Cool Spring Baptist Church

Macon rabbi provides classes to teach community about anti-Jewish bias in our culture

Before You Leave, Check This Out