ADDRESS: 76 Noyes St.

DENOMINATION/AFFILIATION: Orthodox Jewish

HISTORY: At the end of the 19th century, the Jewish community of Portland began discussions about forming one monumental synagogue that would serve as a center of Jewish life in Portland for future generations. In 1900, a group from two separate Portland synagogues established a society to build a great community synagogue. The final plans for Congregation Shaarey Tphiloh were completed in 1904.

The words “Shaarey Tphiloh” in Hebrew mean “Gates of Prayer,” and the mission of the congregation includes within it the prayer that God should actualize the good intentions of the founders in creating good works in society. The congregation takes pride in its many members who have served Portland as public officials and in the quiet good that congregants have performed for the benefit of society.

The Jewish congregation has also been the recipient of much kindness from its Christian neighbors and neighbors of other faiths over the years, most recently in 2009 when neighbors and the community rallied to support the synagogue after an exterior welcoming sign was vandalized.

The original building of the congregation still stands on Newbury Street, but in the 1950s, the members of Shaarey Tphiloh decided to relocate the life of the congregation to a new building on Noyes Street.

The current building features a glass exterior with a menorah on top, indicating the importance that the congregation places on openness and on staying attune with life on the street. At the same time, the menorah on the glass reminds one to remember the importance of tradition while living in the world.

The interior of the synagogue is an architectural marvel, with long wooden beams angling upward to support a towering ceiling. The interior reminds one of Christian gothic architecture with the flying buttresses supporting a ceiling that climbs upward to the heavens. The wooden beams supporting the ceiling prompt one to think of nature and the beauty of the world surrounding us. The beams are from tall trees that were cut down and floated down the river to Portland.

At the center of the synagogue is the bima, where the torah scroll is read. The congregation faces the ark, which holds the beloved torah scrolls. Some torahs in the ark were brought over from Europe in the 19th century, while others were dedicated in more recent times.

Above the ark, there are letters of the Hebrew alphabet that climb upward seemingly to heaven. The floating letters reflect the Jewish mystical belief that our prayers may influence the divine, and that God created the world in which we live through breathing life into the letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

WORSHIP SERVICES: Sabbath services: 6 p.m. Friday and 9 a.m. Saturday in the spring. Prayer and study are at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

CONGREGATION PLANS: Shaarey Tphiloh is focused on preserving the traditions of Jewish life in the synagogue and rejuvenating Jewish life as a whole while continuing its storied history.

CONTACT: 773-0693. Office hours for the synagogue director are 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Rabbi Herzfeld can be reached by email: [email protected] The Web site is: www.mainesynagogue.org/drupal