Walk into the Social Hall of Congregation Beth Shalom and imagine what it looked like in 1970. At that time, the current Social Hall and Kitchen made up the whole synagogue. The building was called Holmes Hall, and it was owned by the University Unitarian Church. It consisted of a small chapel, small social hall, office, 4 classrooms plus lavatories. For the previous two years, Congregation Beth Shalom had been operating out of the Blessed Sacrament School. In 1970 we moved into Holmes Hall, and 3 years later we bought it from the Unitarian Church. Following two major expansions since 1973, the original building has tripled in size. In addition to a larger space, we have incorporated Hiddur Mitzvah – the beautification of the Mitzvah – Jewish Art, into our facility.
When you walk into the lobby today, pause and look up. In the entryway surrounding a skylight is an extraordinary mural depicting Creation, as set out in the Torah, Bereshit 1:1-2:4. Start with Day One, straight ahead, then move your eyes to the left and slowly turn as Days Two-Six reveal themselves in sequence – each more marvelous, literally and figuratively, than the one before. Then leaning your head all the way back, you’ll see Day Seven, the day of rest, and more. The Creation mural was designed and created by Rainer Waldman Adkins and donated by Amy Stephson and Brian Rapalee in 2014 in memory of Amy’s parents, Shirley and Cyrus Stephson, z”l. Beth Shalom’s Sanctuary is home to a second mural created by Rainer Adkins. Very different from the new lobby mural, but equally beautiful, it portrays the Torah’s Seven Species, set against a background of Northwest nature.
We have indeed a beautiful space for worship, celebrations, and learning.