From The Mission Statement of NSHAHS: “The North Shore Hebrew Academy High School is a yeshiva, in the tradition of that distinguished institution which has kept our people alive through the millennia. As a yeshiva, we have the responsibility of keeping the flame of Torah and yirat Shamayim, fear of God, as well as ahavat Shamayim, love of God, burning brightly in the hearts of our children.” During the summer of 2005, Dr. Daniel Vitow, Headmaster of the NSHAHS, approached Edward Jacobs and invited him to submit a design for the Sanctuary and many other necessary elements for the upcoming new campus in Great Neck NY. Working in concert with Ivan and Lisa Kaufman, the main benefactors of the school, Jacobs developed an all-encompassing design and aesthetic that permeates all of the religious aspects of the facility. Traditional Judaic design customs coupled with modern applications and creative and innovative treatments have been employed to achieve this goal. The Judaica elements of the school are meant to add an inspiring and deep dimension to the educational and spiritual atmosphere of the institution. What better way than this to actively encourage our youth to be equally original and inventive in all that they do?


400 North Service Road
Great Neck, NY 11020


Spector Group Architects, Sanctuary Design, Judaic and Donor Recognition Design: Edward Jacobs and Valerie Rothberg Zvi and Sigalit Orgat, Oded Kahila and Magenta Design Studios, Mosaica Elon Studios


Along with all of the Donor Recognition graphics and signage, Jacobs also developed and designed the façade signage for NSHA


Upon entering the building the student or visitor finds him/herself in the spacious and colorful entrance hall. Directly opposite is the Synagogue providing the central axis and focal point for the entire facility. Above is the entrance to the balcony of the Synagogue. The decorative railing resembling naturally growing reeds is the same motif used inside the sanctuary for both the Mechitza and Ark doors. Also in evidence from the lobby perspective are some of the thematic windows adorning the Sanctuary. These windows will be explained from within the sanctuary.


The 29 foot long wall partition in front of the Synagogue entrance is adorned with the Synagogue dedication mural- a mosaic composition incorporating brass plaques for donor recognition. The Sign adorning the mosaic reads:“Planted in the House of God In the courtyards they shall flourish” Psalms 92:14 The Midrash elucidates: When Solomon built the Temple he planted all sorts of fruit trees to give the Holy Ark a sweet smell. The young flowering priests would pick the fruits and plant more trees all year round. That is what David was referring to here in Psalms: Planted in the House of God, they shall blossom in the courtyards. (Yalkut Shimoni VaEtchanan) This verse paints a picturesque scene of young trees blossoming in the environs of the House of God, and the aromatic fruits of the trees planted by the children filled the air on the Temple grounds. This large mural-mosaic adorning the Synagogue entrance wall, sets the thematic tone for the entire institution. The pomegranate trees framing the Temple entrance will bear the names of those who contributed to the construction of the sanctuary. The dedication of a Beit T’fillah, a Synagogue, within the environs of the North Shore Hebrew Academy, is an extraordinary realization of Judaism’s integrative vision of education and worship. As clearly evidenced in the architectural design of the institution, the Synagogue acts as the pivotal axis for all activity that transpires within.


To the left and right wrapping around the staircases are two more large mosaic walls which are the central donor recognition areas for the entire facility. All donor recognition and dedications are displayed here, at the entrance of school. These mosaics cover an area of approximately 1000 square feet. They were fabricated in Israel at the Kibbutz Elon mosaic studio. Jacobs collected and integrated shells and rocks collected from all over Israel as part of the composition. “As my parents planted trees for me, so too do I plant them for my children” -Genorah Taanit Much of the Schools original building campaign was based on the notion of trees as a metaphor for growth, children and Torah. We chose to build upon this theme carry it throughout our designs, particularly in the Sanctuary itself. For the donor recognition area, we decided to employ the vision of leaves being blown in the wind as the thematic base for our composition. Each wall is a grand mosaic, inlaid with custom patinated brass/bronze “leaves” which bear the individual dedications. Different “leaf” types and sizes are employed in order to delineate the various donation categories. As evidenced in the pictures, when engraved through the patinated surface, the dedication inscriptions stand out in bright gold color.


Entry to the Synagogue is through a double-door vestibule preventing ambient lobby noise from entering into the Sanctuary environment as well as providing a transition space from one area to another. Upon entering the Sanctuary one is immediately struck by the lightness and color of the space. The round shape of the room, the stunning skylight above, the vibrant Judaica elements, and the natural and free-form of the floor and furniture elements all contribute to the overall natural feeling of the space. The natural stone floor, combined with green carpet contribute to the dramatic but relaxed atmosphere of the space. All of the choices and colors in this space are meant to be an extension of the natural environment surrounding the building.


The eastern wall of the room is centered around the 11×32 foot Ark Doors. The Doors of the Ark are also curved and operate on a sophisticated tracking mechanism. This allows the 600 lbs doors (each) to open and close with ease. The decorative covering of the Ark Doors match precisely the reed-like natural motif of the Mechitza panels. In fact, it is the Ark that establishes this design, from which the Mechitza flows. The handles on the Ark doors are faced in the same oak used for the Sanctuary furnishings creating a material bond between the elements. Once opened, the doors reveal the large glass enclosed Ark cavern, flooded with light and augmented by the sweeping panorama visible through the windows. Inside the Ark is a large abstract sculpture- an allegorical Tree of Life- within which sit the Torah Scrolls, each in its own cradle, each at its own angle, point of focus and height. Hanging from the ceiling and the branches of the tree are custom made glass “leaves” illuminated by the natural light and once again sustaining the tree and leaf theme so predominant throughout the design.


The Ner Tamid/Eternal Light is a sculpture composed of individual leaves falling/rising in a cascade of motion above the Ark. As a mobile, the leaves are constantly reacting to the various air currents within the Sanctuary, and so there is constant movement and light shimmering from giving the piece a dynamic quality. Traditionally the Ner Tamid is meant to recall the miraculous single candle in the Menorah that stood in the Temple which never extinguished and was used to rekindle the other branches every morning. In keeping with this idea of a Heavenly connection the Ner Tamid creates a dynamic contextual and visual bridge between the Aron and its contents and their ethereal source.


Augmenting the natural atmosphere in the sanctuary are the Mechitza and Ark-door covering, both fashioned from laser-cut steel, resembling reeds or vines” enclosing beautiful leaf-infused acrylic panels. Rather than design straight panels, curved panels were chosen to create a more natural feeling and look within the Sanctuary. In order to establish the important premise of equality within the NSHA Sanctuary, the space is equally divided between the men and the women’s side on the main floor, but also in the balcony.


As the Mechitza meets the central Bimah it literally splits into two, surrounding the entirety of the Bimah but for opening on each side. This will allow for students from both the women’s and men’s section to come up onto the Bimah and also provides for necessary halachic parameters as mandated by the schools Rabbi. The Mechitza then continues its journey down the Sanctuary floor to the front Bimah where it abuts the stage, but then “reappears” in the guise of the Ark doors.


Both the Shulchan/Table and Safsal/Bench located on the central Bimah, as well as the Rabbi’s Shtender/Lectern and Talit Stand in the lobby are designed and constructed from rough hewn natural oak logs. While smoothly finished, the edges and shapes of the surfaces reflect their natural origins and how they were cut from the original tree. These pieces were designed by Jacobs and fabricated by Galil Furniture Industries of Israel.


On the Shulchan/Table, is the Mappa, or Table Cover. Designed by Jacobs, this stunning element is a custom-woven textile fabricated on a hand-loom by the Israeli textile artist Yehudit Katz. The stunning abstract design of the cover represents a variation of the stylistic motifs envisaged within the window designs.


For comfort and ease of movement, running bench pews of natural beech wood were designed by Jacobs and produced at Kibbutz Lavi furniture factory. An interesting aspect of the design is evidenced in the wavy undulating form of the top of the backrests of the pews suggesting a feeling of swaying fields or rippling waves on the water.


Traditionally, a Sanctuary environment contains a symbolic Menorah, recalling the Menorah that stood within the Mishkan and the Temple in Jerusalem. It is a symbol of the direct connection between our modern-day sanctuaries and the envisioned Third Temple, may it be built speedily and in our days. The customary shape and patterning of these Menorah’s are generally standard, however at NSHAHS, Jacobs desired to diverge from the customary and create a different vision. Laser cut stainless steel “branches” composed of flowing forms and curves, emanate from a common base interweaving like vines on a fence, each to culminate in the flame receptacle on top. These ceramic cups are hand thrown and glazed adding a new texture and materiality to the Sanctuary composition in a harmonious manner.


Located in the Rotunda of the School, at the juncture between the administration and academic wings of the school are more Donor recognition walls. In this case we see the “Founders Wall” designed around the theme of the primacy of education in Judaism. The wall consists of high resolution pictures depicting sections of the Kotel in Jerusalem, actual Jerusalem stone plaques for engraving, and the following textual quotation applied in raised gold lettering: The Beit Midrash was conceived as both an ancillary davening space as well as a more classically oriented Torah learning environment where classes could be given and students could learn in “Chavruta” sitting opposite one-another. The eastern wall is dominated by a large central Aron/Ark expressing a simpler more classic design. It is flanked on both sides by smaller Ark-like units, one in fact being a portable Ark on wheels allowing it to be transferred easily throughout the building for other Minyan needs. Similarly the Shulchan/Table is also on wheels allowing for its convenient movement within the Beit Midrash as well as around the entire school. The Parochet and Mappa were designed as an artistic variation on the mural at the back of the room- both expressing unique visions of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple.