Posted in projects on November 30, 2015 10:35 am EST

Philly’s Oldest Jewish Sanctuary Undergoes Renewal

Rodeph Shalom's historic building in the heart of the city, built in 1928, undergoes major renovation -- including a new sound system.

Rodeph Shalom, the oldest and largest Jewish congregation in Philadelphia, built in 1928, has undergone renovation and sound upgrades.











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TAGS: audio upgrade, avl design, historic renovation, interior design, sustainability,


By Church Designer Staff

Founded in 1795, Rodeph Shalom is the oldest and largest Jewish congregation in Philadelphia. Its historic building in the heart of the city, built in 1928, has recently undergone major renovation, including a new sound system featuring Renkus-Heinz Iconyx IC Live ICL-FR steered arrays and IC212S-FR subwoofers.

With general contractor Intech Construction handling the overall building renovation, the congregation brought in acoustics, audiovisual, and vibration consulting firm Acentech to design the new system, along with audio/video systems supplier Philadelphia Sound Productions.

Challenges & solutions

Rodeph Shalom's sanctuary seats about 1,400 and includes a large balcony area. The walls are gorgeously painted with gold leaf dating to the building's original construction, and soar to a domed ceiling towering 60 feet above. The synagogue hosts a broad range of speakers and events, from small ceremonies to packed High Holidays services. Sabbath services are contemporary, with nine or more musicians and sometimes a choir. So the new system had to deliver full-range music as well as clear, intelligible speech.

"A lot of issues went away with beam steering. We could place the sound precisely, eliminate reflections, reduce overall volume, and get clarity and coverage everywhere."

—Raymond Stokes, Senior Project Manager, Philadelphia Sound Productions

"The biggest challenge was the shape of the space and the dome," explains Acentech Senior Consultant Perry Artese. "The room is very live, and we had to deal with cancellation under the dome and a lot of flutter echo. We studied the acoustics, and the reverb time was not bad but the speech transmission index ranged from 0.51 to 0.55, which is just fair, so it was hard to discern speech."

"The old horn-loaded sound system created too much splash and echo," adds Philadelphia Sound's Walter Mosetter, who handled the system programming and interfacing. "We weren't looking for volume so much as clarity and consistent coverage, without over-energizing the room."

Rodeph Shalom, exterior.

Because of aesthetic and architectural considerations -- the building is on the National Register of Historic Places -- acoustic treatment was unfeasible. Fortunately, beam steering provided the solution.

"We tested several systems," recalls Mosetter, "and what we found with the Renkus-Heinz IC Live was that not only did it sound better, but the beam-steering technology gave us much more control."  continued >>