Thursday, August 27, 2009

Lecture: Gruber to lecture in Portsmouth, Virginia on "The Architecture of Immigration: American Synagogues from 1760 to 1920"

I don't like to refer to myself in the 3rd person, but here is a notice for an upcoming lecture where I do so, in case you want to post it or pass it along. - SDG

Lecture: Gruber to lecture in Portsmouth, Virginia

"The Architecture of Immigration: American Synagogues from 1760 to 1920"

An illustrated lecture

by Dr. Samuel D. Gruber

The Jewish Museum & Cultural Center

(former Chevra T’helim Synagogue)

607 Effingham Street - P.O. Box 7962

Portsmouth, VA 23707

Tel. 757-391-9266

For information:

Admission: $15

Jews came to America in three main waves. In the 17th and 18th centuries, descendants of Spanish Jews – mostly living under Dutch or English rule – settled in the New World, and many participated in the War of Independence. By 1800, these Sephardi Jews built synagogues in five cities – Philadelphia, New York, Newport, Charleston and Savannah. By the mid-19th century, thousands of Central European Jews joined the mass emigration to the United States caused by political unrest and economic instability in Europe. Many started as peddlers but then settled in hundreds of towns throughout the American south and west, playing a pivotal role in the expansion of the American frontier and the cohesion of the new nation. A third wave of immigration from Europe was by far the biggest. Millions of Jews fled Eastern Europe, particularly those territories controlled by Russia and repressed under Tsarist rule. From the 1880s to the 1920s hundreds of thousands “Russians” settled in North, numerically overwhelming older Sephardic and “German” populations, though it took a generation and more before they established political and economic parity, and developed a synagogue architecture of their own.

This lecture traces this history through the religious buildings erected by each Jewish immigrant group. Through a rich architectural legacy, Dr. Gruber examines the history, experiences, tastes, influences and aspirations of American Jewish immigrants.

The Jewish Museum & Cultural Center

The Jewish Museum & Cultural Center opened in March 2008 in the former Chevra T'helim Synagogue, built in 1918 and closed in1985.

In 2002, the Friends of Chevra T'helim, Inc., formed a 501(c)(3) organization and stepped in to preserve this historic landmark. They acquired the building, and launched a Capital Campaign to raise $500,000. Architect John Paul Hanbury of the firm of Hanbury Evans Wright Vlattas & Company, noted for their excellence in historic preservation, oversaw the restoration.

The former synagogue, now completely restored, has been recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is listed on the Virginia Historic Register.

SAMUEL D. GRUBER is Director of the Jewish Heritage Research Center (Syracuse, NY); and president of the International Survey of Jewish Monuments. From 1989 until 1995 he served as founding director of the Jewish Heritage Council of WMF and from 1998 through 2008 as Research Director of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad. Since 2001 he has been the Rothman Family and Holstein Family Lecturer in Judaic Studies at Syracuse University. He is author of American Synagogues: A Century of Architecture and Jewish Community (Rizzoli, 2003) and Synagogues (Metrobooks, NY, 1999); and author or editor of numerous articles and survey reports about Jewish monuments.

Dr. Gruber received his B.A. degree in Medieval Studies from Princeton University, and his Ph.D. degree from Columbia University in the History of Art and Archaeology. He is a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome. He has recently received research grants from the James Marston Fitch Charitable Foundation, the AIA New York Chapter the Cahnmann Foundation and the Delmas Foundation. Dr. Gruber serves on many charitable boards and advisory committees. He is President of the Preservation Association of Central New York and Co-Chair of the Building Centennial Committee of Temple Concord in Syracuse.

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