The very first talk I ever gave about synagogue architecture (at the College Art Association in Houston in 1988) was about the little B'nai Abraham synagogue in my ancestral town of Brenham, Texas. I've always been interested in the development of synagogue architecture in the American south and west - since the history of Jews in those areas is in many ways so different from the best-known narrative of the East-coast American Jewish experience.
I've posted on this blog and elsewhere about southern synagogues on several occasions. Here is a call for papers from the Southern Jewish Historical Society. I'm thinking about submitting a proposal for a paper of session about southern synagogue architecture - if only because I've never been to Birmingham and there are buildings old and new I'd like to see there, including the near-100-year-old Temple Emanuel, one of the country's best surviving (domed) classical-style synagogues. If you are working on a related topic - a single building, an architect or a building type, let me know.
Lee Shai Weissbach's excellent book the The Synagogues of Kentucky remains the best introduction to the varieties of types of styles to be found in the region and some of the social and religious circumstances leading to their construction and use. but there have been some other good local studies of specifically Jewish sites, and Jewish sites within local historical and architectural contexts.
For those wanting to know more about some southern synagogues and their communities, check out the Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities edited by Stuart Rockoff of the Institute of Southern Jewish life.
Here is the Southern Jewish Historical Society call for papers:
Call for Papers: Southern Jewish Historical Society's Annual Conference
Since 1977, the Southern Jewish Historical Society has worked to foster scholarship about the experience of southern Jews. With an annual conference, academic journal, and active grant and award programs, the society has helped to move southern Jewish history from the margins of the American Jewish narrative into the mainstream. For more information about the SJHS, please go to http://www.jewishsouth.org/.
The Southern Jewish Historical Society will hold its annual conference on November 1-3, 2013, in Birmingham, Alabama. 2013 marks the 50th anniversary of the Birmingham civil rights demonstrations, and the SJHS meeting will be part of the city's commemoration of the events. Although the history of Jews and the Civil Rights Movement will be of particular interest, we invite the submission of paper proposals that deal with all dimensions of southern Jewish history. Submission of panel proposals will also be considered.
Paper proposals are due by March 15, 2013. Abstracts should not exceed more than one page. Submissions should include an abstract, a CV, and contact information. For panel proposals, please include abstracts of each paper, CVs for presenters and panel organizer, and contact information for all participants.
Please submit your proposal to Dan Puckett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For additional information please contact:
Dr. Dan Puckett at (334) 241-5478 or Dr. Stuart Rockoff at (601) 362-6357