Beth Chayim Chadashim

Project Type
Sacred Space
Client Type
Institutional
Location
Los Angeles, CA
Photographer
Eric Staudenmeier

Description

Temple Beth Chayim Chadashim was founded in 1972 as the world’s first synagogue for gay and lesbian Jews.  Embraced from the start by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now the Union for Reform Judaism), BCC has been a pioneering community for over 40 years.

In 2011 BCC purchased a 6,000sf retail building one block from their previous location.  The masonry building was structurally upgraded and completely re-imagined for religious use.  To ease the transition from busy Pico Boulevard, a new entry was created on a side street, allowing an indoor-outdoor connection to the parking area, which serves dual-purpose as a gathering space for large community events.

The plan, which saved only the exterior walls, ensures that all rooms can be multi-purpose, with classrooms opening through large doors to a shared lobby space, planned to accommodate social gatherings and meals before or after services.  A glass wall lets light into the sanctuary space, beyond.  The wall is designed to highlight stained glass created by congregation members.

The sanctuary space is flexible, designed to accommodate worship services of different sizes and styles, as well as concerts, meetings and community gatherings. The community kitchen is also multi-functional, serving as a workspace and community gathering space, and can even be shuttered with a large garage door to function as a more proper meeting room if needed. The temple offices are light and friendly, allowing for a mix of full-time and volunteer staff.

The project has been submitted for LEED Silver Certification.

 

The StoryLines Project

Temple Beth Chayim Chadashim was founded in 1972 as the world’s first synagogue for gay and lesbian Jews. Embraced from the start by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (now the Union for Reform Judaism), BCC has been a pioneering community for over 40 years.

To reflect the unique history of the congregation as they moved to a new home, architects Toni Lewis and Marc Schoeplein envisioned a project that involved the entire community, physically and spiritually, working together to create a centerpiece for the new sanctuary. What emerged became known as the StoryLines.

At a series of community workshops, the congregation was invited to come write their individual stories, accounts of what BCC has meant in their own lives. Each participant was then given a thin copper strip, on which they hand-etched a piece of their story: a sentence or a few words containing memories, wishes or thoughts for the future of the synagogue. Collected, these 250 unique copper strips form the StoryLines.

The StoryLines now form the main wall of the bimah, installed on wood building blocks which surround glass ark doors, created for the new building by artists in the BCC community.

The copper strips overlap and intertwine each other and the ark itself, in the same way that the stories they hold are forever interconnected in creating the unique community that is Beth Chayim Chadashim.

Over the coming years the StoryLines will continue to grow. The ark wall panels are removable so that new copper strips can be added as new members join BCC with their own stories to tell. As architect Marc Schoeplein wrote on his own StoryLine: “I hope that what we can bring to it is simply a starting point.”

Beth Chayim Chadashim