The site for tonight’s Democratic debate on the University Wisconsin Milwaukee campus is being held in a dignified hall that once was once a place of worship. Built in the 1920’s for Congregation Emanu-El B'ne Jeshurun, the building was home for the community for seventy years. The building now serves a larger community as an arts center for the university campus. Within the complex the main worship space is now the Helen Bader Concert Hall.
The conversion from sacred to secular appears to have been very successful. Some of the old building elements remain as enhancements to the overall environment. A wall of stained glass and the scalloped domed ceiling define majestic interior. Decorative details and trim have been preserved and restored. What was once the location for the Bimah is now a wide stage platform. The upper balcony provides tiered seating and close proximity to the stage. Modern enhancements to the sound system and lighting have made the space a truly modern performance venue.
Maybe it is fortuitous that the debate is taking place within these walls. Will decades of prayer may bring a spirit of conciliation and understanding to the political discourse? We can only hope!