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Beth Sholom Puts Out Call for Docents

July 21, 2011
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The visitor center at Beth Sholom Synagogue in Elkins Park is looking for a few volunteers with the right stuff.

The Beth Sholom Preservation Foundation needs docents to lead groups on tours of the only synagogue designed by renowned architect Frank Lloyd Wright. In 2007, the structure, meant to evoke Mount Sinai, was named a National Historic Landmark.

In 2009, the synagogue opened a special exhibit about the architect, including a film depicting the relationship between Wright and Mortimer Cohen, the synagogue's rabbi at the time of its design. The foundation has been actively courting large tour groups -- especially religious groups and Wright aficionados -- and needs a larger pool of docents to handle the traffic, according to Jill Rosen, director of tourism and marketing for the foundation.

Right now, there are fewer than 20 active docents, so Rosen is looking to recruit from outside the congregation.

Beth Sholom will play a key role in September when the Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy, a preservation organization, hosts its annual conference in Philadelphia, set to take place from Sept. 21-23 at the Sheraton Society Hill Hotel. About 150 conference attendees are expected to tour the Elkins Park synagogue.

This week, as it turns out, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar officially nominated 11 of Wright's most famous works -- such as Fallingwater and Taliesin -- to be named to the United Nations list of World Heritage Sites. Beth Sholom was not on the list.

Emily Cooperman, preservation direction at Beth Sholom, said the list was compiled several years ago and she wasn't sure why Beth Sholom was left off. "Those are all famous buildings," she said. "I suppose Beth Sholom might not be as famous as some of those other ones. But we are working on that."

For more information about becoming a docent, call Jill Rosen at 215-887-1342, Ext. 227.

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