You are invited to make Kol Shofar the site for your next event!
Congregation Kol Shofar is a hidden jewel within Southern Marin. It is the perfect location for every type of event, uniquely providing the ambiance for both celebration and sacred rituals. The perfect place for a personal or corporate event:
- Wedding reception
- Bar or Bat Mitzvah party
- Anniversary celebration
- Birthday parties
- Board meeting
- Offsite training
Superb ambiance with the following special features:
- Sweeping views of the mountains from our floor to ceiling glass doors in the Beit Am social hall
- Sparkling bamboo floors perfect for dancing the night away
- Professional sound system and viewing screens
- Diverse lighting system
- Ability to design the movable walls so any ambiance can be achieved
Have your next party at Kol Shofar and leave the planning and clean up to us!
Our Building’s Renovation and Construction
Spiritual Symbolism of the Architectural Elements of Our New Building
by Susie Coliver, Herman, Coliver, Locus Architects
Originally designed as a public middle school in the 1970’s, it’s not surprising that Kol Shofar, before the renovation, needed to be radically reconfigured to meet the present and future needs of its congregants. The result is a series of spaces in which the ineffable presence of the divine is marked by the changing play of light throughout the day and the seasons, paralleling the sequential reading of the scriptures over the course of a year.
The path to the synagogue begins with an ascent along a gracefully curved stairway, scattered with benches placed to provide rest, if need be, or to wait for friends. Its precise path was determined with an eye to retaining old oaks on the hillside, which frame the first glimpse of the synagogue entry. Once at the top, colored paving inscribed with local eucalyptus leaves forms the forecourt to the canopied entry. Mature olive trees, the ancient signifiers of hope and peace, dot the landscaped plaza. The canopy itself, flanked by engaged benches, provides a preview of the woodwork within, while illuminating the movement of the sun with pronounced shade patterns cast on adjacent walls and floor. The Canopy is defined by 12 cantilevered girders standing in for the 12 sons of Jacob who made up the tribes of Israel.
At the right-hand exterior wall of the entry is a mezuzah, custom-made to recall the curved shape of the sanctuary with its seven apertures. On the opposite wall is a push-panel that automatically opens the front door, allowing those in wheelchairs or without the strength to pull a door open, to enter in as dignified a manner as everyone else, even without assistance.
The Lobby itself is decorated with sunlight, evidence of Adonai’s presence, and not much else, beyond a simple set of drawers for holding kippot. One comes face to face for the first time with the slatted hemlock walls that everywhere on the site denote a sacred space. Simple lounge seating encourages the chatter of chance encounters and make of the foyer more than merely a place of transition. Yet from here, there are many paths. One is a ramp to the Beit Am along which are arrayed recognitions of the many families it takes to sustain a community such as Kol Shofar. Another is a stairway descending to the renovated classroom wing. A third leads to the realm of those who work to keep the synagogue well oiled and greased on a daily basis. Yet another provides an alternate route to three new classrooms and the pre-school wing. The final two paths start at a pair of glazed doors, adorned with Shofar-shaped handles, that lead into the inner sanctum of the sanctuary. Some sort of transformation takes place at these thresholds. The space on the other side is somehow quieter; one’s senses are heightened. There is only one way to go, yet the destination is out of view, hidden around a bend. Retrieving a tallis and siddur are the next steps in the unfurling procession from the profane of the parking lot to the sacred of the bima.
At the bottom of the gentle ramp, the Beit Knesset comes into full view. Though asymmetrical, the space seems comforting. Though the ceiling is high, a sense of intimacy is palpable. At the north is a Yartzheit Wall, honoring our predecessors. Gone are the little red lights; in their stead, each name is etched in light, glowing ethereally. At the south, seven pillars suggest the presence of our larger-than-life imahot and avot, as throughout history, they have lent support the Jewish people.
The highest point of the kippah-shaped dome marks neither the center of the room, nor the holiest spot. Rather, the space is centered under a Ring of Light suspended above the amud. Fixed and loose seating radiates out describing first a circle and then an egg. The circle accommodates attendance for most services. The egg expands to embrace the larger numbers who come for yontif and b’naimitzvot. The space is dominated by five circles: two make up the chandelier, another caps the juncture of the 20 glue-lam beams, one is formed by the seating and a final one by the oculus from which the NerTamid springs. These five rings appear in ever-changing relationships with each other as one moves about the room. The dynamic of their dance and the perfect wholeness of their shape reinforce the strong sense of community which undergirds this congregation.
The NerTamid is always lit, but sheds no light by which to see. Rather, it scatters light, reflecting the wonder of the eternal a bit differently each second of each minute of each year. Its shards are a reminder of the broken vessels of Isaac Luria’s creation drash. It is our task to reassemble them through acts of tikkunolam.
Etched onto the shards are the letters of the SH’MA rising up, recalling the ElehEzkerah and Rabbi Akiba’s amazing vision. As he died a martyr’s death, wrapped in the Torah, chanting the Shema, he claimed the parchment was burning but the letters of Torah were flying free, never to be eradicated. These elusive letters can be seen floating gaily about the beitknesset on sunny days.
The aronhakodesh is embedded in a backdrop of diaphanous textile panels, an enormous parochet surrounding the scrolls. Each panel is the width of a person. As a group they suggest the presence of a minyan even when no one’s around. The illuminated texts, chosen by Rabbi Chai Levy for their recall of the significance of the cherubin above the original Holy of Holies, all refer to the theme of relationship and connectedness: that God’s Presence is found in the space between people. The seating in the round, with congregants facing one another, encountering one another, in joy and sadness, further exemplifies a central tenet of Kol Shofar’s culture: connectedness, being welcoming, and caring for one another and for the stranger.
The ark doors are an exact representation rendered in sand-blasted glass of an 18th century parochet made of velvet embroidered with metallic and silk threads by Jacob Koppel Gans in 1772-73. The original resides in the collection of the Jewish Museum, New York. The reinterpretation in Tiburon connects the congregation to its largely Ashkenazi roots.
Arcing above the congregation are the seven skylights of Creation: Six rectangular, much like one another, and one which is separate and differently organized, the light of Shabbat, which stands apart. It is from this Sabbath aperture, framed as the letter “shin” that the Eternal Light emanates. The skylights allow those in prayer to spy the first three stars in the evening sky, announcing the start of a new day.
BEIT AM AND SPACES FOR GATHERING
Beyond the Beit Knesset are spaces for gathering. The Beit Am foyer is defined by two ceremonial washbasins at which one pauses to recite the al n’tilatyadayim before proceeding to a meal. Decorating this space are the names of the Community Wall, which will expand and grow fuller every time another simcha is celebrated. This light-filled foyer has a coffee bar to encourage parents and others to hang out informally while children are at Beit Binah on Sunday mornings. Behind the buffet is a stroller storage and coat closet, as well as new fully accessible restrooms, with tallis hooks on the wall beside each doors.
On the far side of the Sanctuary are the Family Room and Bride’s Room. The Family Room, outfitted with lounge seating for adults and tiny tot furnishings and toys for children, is the place to retreat with children who are rambunctious during services. Providing a clear view of the bima and sound piped in, but not out, those tending children can remain on site, follow the service and attend to crying babies all at the same time.
The Beit Am itself is designed to serve many purposes. Even when divided in three, each of its broad wedges receives natural light. Banquets will be held here, as will yoga lessons and meditation sessions. Religious services for 200 or up to 600 can be accommodated in it. Yet, banquets for 250 with room for dancing will occupy the space just as comfortably. The lower walls are sheathed in ecoresin, a co-polyester recycled content product, so as to withstand the abuse of scraping chairs and tables. The upper walls and ceiling are made of sound absorptive panels to enhance the acoustic quality of the space. The flooring throughout is bamboo, a highly renewable natural material. High windows capture views of tree tops while screening out surrounding roads and houses. The entire glazed, eastern wall can be opened up to the natural world which beckons at the perimeter of the synagogue’s forecourt.
The Beit Am is served by the only commercial kosher kitchen in south Marin. The colors of the kitchen floors act as a visual cue to their use: a red floor for the meat kitchen and a white one for the milk side. Both have been outfitted for use by both congregants and caterers.
In fact, the colors and patterns both inside and out have been chosen for particular reasons. The exterior colors are a reflection of those found in the natural landscape of southern Marin. The plaster picks up the faint green of the hills as winter turns to spring, while the tawny gold is a near perfect match for the same hills as summer becomes fall. The green stain of the horizontal wood siding is close to that of the evergreens on site. Only the Jerusalem limestone refers to a distant land; one that many congregants nonetheless call home.