This synagogue on fashionable West Franklin Street indicates the prosperity and importance of Richmond's Jewish community. Built during a period of immigration and assimilation, the temple also affirms, in its use of classical references, the adoption of American ideals and aspirations by this, the oldest Jewish congregation in the city. The giant columnar portico rises above a broad flight of steps to form an impressive visual terminus for Ryland Street, which provides the approach to Beth Ahabah (literally, “house of love”) from Broad Street. The dramatic site emphasizes the monumental scale of the temple and its Roman Doric portico and frieze, while the domed design recalls the Pantheon in Rome and the Rotunda at the University of Virginia. Inside the domed sanctuary, a richly painted proscenium arch rises above the bema, or dais. The tall reredos contrasts with the organ pipes above a columnar screen that frames the ark containing the Torah.
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Congregation Beth Ahabah Synagogue
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