Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Arise and Build: American Synagogues and Jewish Identity

West Hartford, CT. Interior of sanctuirary, restored in 2006. Photo: courtesy of Cong. Beth Israel.

Arise and Build: American Synagogues and Jewish Identity

Samuel D. Gruber lecture at Congregation Beth Israel in West Hartford, Connecticut

Sunday, October 23, 12 noon

In the last century, American Jews have built synagogues at a rate never seen in the world before, and in the process they have integrated the synagogue into the American landscape, and Judaism into the American cultural mainstream. This illustrated lecture explores the evolving form and meaning of the American synagogue, especially in the 20th century, as shaped by architects and their congregational patrons.

Through synagogue design, I'll trace changes in the organization of the American Jewish community and its relationship to American culture as a whole. The location, size, shape, and stylistic language adopted for synagogue designs throughout the century is a reflection of the changing needs and values of American Jews.

West Hartford, CT. Congregation Beth Israel. Exterior. Photo: Samuel D. Gruber (1997).Beth Israel is an apt setting for this talk. The synagogue, listed on the National Register of Historic Places was designed by Charles Greco and dedicated in 1936. The sanctuary was fully restored in 2006 - I'm looking forward to seeing it.

You can read more about the congregation and building history here. It is one of the few synagogues in america entirely contructed in the 1930s. Synagogues in Hartford, West Hartford and nearby areas are significant in their won right, but also representative of broader trends.

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