18 April 2021

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
61, Terenure Synagogue, Dublin

Terenure Synagogue on Rathfarnham Road dates from a meeting in 1936 and first opened in 1953 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During the Season of Easter this year, I am continuing my theme from Lent, taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

Today is the Third Sunday of Easter (Easter III, Sunday 18 April 2021). This week, I am offering photographs of synagogues that have welcomed me over the years and offered a place of prayer and reflection.

This morning’s photographs are from the synagogue of the Dublin Hebrew Congregation at 32a Rathfarnham Road, Terenure, Dublin.

I was born in a house on Rathfarnham Road, opposite the then Classic Cinema and between the old Terenure Laundry and the new site for Terenure Synagogue.

The synagogue dates back to a meeting in 1936 to set up a synagogue in the Rathmines, Rathgar or Terenure area to cater for the young families now living in these suburbs and who found it was too far to walk on Saturdays and Festivals to the synagogues on Adelaide Road and at Greenville Hall on the South Circular Road.

The congregation moved from Rathmines to a Nissen hut in the grounds of ‘Leoville’ on Rathfarnham Road on Rosh Hashanah, 4 October 1948. Building work on the new synagogue began in August 1952, and it was completed and dedicated on 30 August 1953.

The synagogue was designed by the architect Wilfrid Cantwell (1921-2000). He worked with Michael Scott, alongside Kevin Roche, Kevin Fox and Robin Walker, and worked on Bus ArĂºs, Dublin, and later worked with JN Kidney before setting up his own practice (1947-1975). He attained distinction in the area of church architecture, particularly in years immediately after Vatican II. From 1976 until he retired in 1993, he specialised as a consultant in church design.

Cantwell said his new synagogue in Terenure met the committee’s specifications for a building that would ‘cost less than half the normal place, look as if it cost the full amount and be an example of good modern design.’ It was praised for its ‘original, modern, commanding and attractive design.’

The ‘master builder’ of the synagogue was the Dublin timber merchant Sam Noyek, who built the synagogue with a capacity for 600 people.

The shul was set on fire on Wednesday 9 February 1966. Several Siffrei Torah were destroyed, and the shul itself was very badly damaged. The Nissen hut that had been turned into a function hall was quickly converted back into a shul, and no Shabbat services were missed.

The newly refurbished synagogue was rededicated on Sunday 26 May 1968. Its features include the striking stained-glass windows on the north and south walls by Stanley Tomlin, who began his career in the Harry Clarke Studios in 1932.

At extraordinary meetings of the Terenure and Adelaide Road congregations in January 1999, the two congregations agreed to merge. It was agreed that the Adelaide Road Synagogue would be sold, and that some of the proceeds of the sale would be used to build a new synagogue complex, including a new mikveh and a community centre, on the grounds at Rathfarnham Road.

From then, the Terenure Synagogue hosted the members of the former synagogue on Adelaide Road. This arrangement continued until 15 December 2004, when both congregations held simultaneous extraordinary general meetings and agreed to merge as the new Dublin Hebrew Congregation.

The agreed new synagogue was never built, and Terenure Synagogue is the only major Orthodox synagogue in the Republic of Ireland.

Stars of David in Terenure Synagogue face onto Rathfarnham Road (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Luke 24: 36b-48 (NRSVA):

36b Jesus stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ 37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. 38 He said to them, ‘Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.’ 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate in their presence.

44 Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you — that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, ‘Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.’

A stained glass window in the synagogue on Rathfarnham Road

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today (18 April 2021, Easter III) invites us to pray:

Risen Christ,
open our heart to the stranger.
May we recognise that we are all made in your image,
and let us work together to protect the planet we share.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

Rabbi Zalman Lent with the Aron haKodesh and Torah scrolls in Terenure Synagogue

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

A Church of Ireland Interfaith Conference visiting Terenure Synagogue on Rathfarnham Road, Dublin

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