SAH Archipedia Highlights: Jewish American Heritage Month

by Catherine Boland Erkkila, BUS/SAH Archipedia Managing Editor | May 11, 2021

In recognition of Jewish American Heritage Month, we are featuring a small selection of the synagogues included in SAH Archipedia.

Gumenick Chapel

Gumenick Chapel
Photograph by David Rifkind

The Gumenick Chapel is a 1960s addition to Temple Israel’s majestic Byzantine Revival building (1927, Robertson and Patterson) in Miami Beach, which was completed five years after the congregation’s founding. The chapel was built during a time when the synagogue’s congregation was growing rapidly. Under Rabbi Joseph Narot, the community grew to 1,800 families and High Holy Day ceremonies were so large that the congregation rented the Miami Beach Convention Center. During this time, the synagogue was also actively engaged in social justice issues, including the civil rights movement, and the new chapel was seen as embodying the values of this dynamic congregation.

Eldridge Street Synagogue

Photograph by Rhododendrites, CC BY SA-4.0

The unique architecture of the Eldridge Street Synagogue is matched by its complex history. It was erected on the Lower East Side of Manhattan at a time when the densely built neighborhood was New York City’s most crowded immigrant district. The building features Moorish, Gothic, and Romanesque elements, an eclectic fusion of architectural styles popular for synagogues in both the United States and Europe during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The restored structure is now a museum, and the neighborhood is largely occupied by Chinese, rather than Jewish, immigrants.

Anshe Emeth Beth Tefilo Synagogue

Anshe Emeth Beth Tefilo Synagogue
Photograph by Richard W. Burry – Volunteer Photography Group

This major work of twentieth-century religious architecture in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, was built by German Jewish modernist architect Erich Mendelsohn. Built in 1945–1950, the Anshe Emeth Beth Tefilo Synagogue (Park Synagogue) was one of Mendelsohn’s last major projects, and he designed the interior furniture and finishes as well. At the dedication Mendelsohn noted, “On American soil, the Park Synagogue is an attempt to express what is eternal and beautiful in Judaism to the American Jew in the year nineteen hundred and fifty.”

North Shore Congregation Israel

North Shore Congregation
Photograph by Elizabeth Milnarik

North Shore Congregation Israel is the oldest Jewish community on Chicago’s North Shore, the narrow band of suburban communities along Lake Michigan north of the city. Located in Glencoe, near country clubs, forest preserves, and grand residences, the synagogue is set on the bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan. The design embodies architect Minoru Yamasaki’s New Formalist vision: its monumental, reinforced concrete vaults simultaneously evoke Gothic structural forms, while its materials and detailing are clearly modern.

Temple Adath Israel

Temple Adath Israel
Photograph by Mitch Eckert

Temple Adath Israel is an exuberant and eclectic mix of Gothic and Moorish revivals. Built in 1877–1878, this diminutive structure is an example of the architectural fashion for Moorish-inspired synagogues then popular in both the United States and Europe. The Jewish community settled in Owensboro, an important trade hub along the Ohio River, before the Civil War. A number of Owensboro’s Jewish citizens had emigrated from Central Europe, which may explain why the congregation chose this particular style for the synagogue's facade. 

Founded in 1940, the Society of Architectural Historians is an international nonprofit membership organization that promotes the study, interpretation and conservation of architecture, design, landscapes and urbanism worldwide. SAH serves a network of local, national and international institutions and individuals who, by profession or interest, focus on the built environment and its role in shaping contemporary life. SAH promotes meaningful public engagement with the history of the built environment through advocacy efforts, print and online publications, and local, national and international programs.

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for its operating support.
Society of Architectural Historians
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