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Monday, July 23, 2012

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Synagogues

Harrisburg is the capital of Pennsylvania and while not a large city (city population around 50,000), there is a large and historic Jewish Community. The metro area has 7 synagogues, a Jewish Community Center, several Jewish cemeteries, all the various Jewish organizations as well as a moving Holocaust Memorial located along the riverfront. Two synagogues, Beth El and Ohev Sholom, maintain historic structures along Front Street a short distance from the downtown core. Temple Ohev Sholom is a Reform congregation founded in 1853. Their present Neo-Classical Revival synagogue was built in 1920. It is a handsome edifice facing the river. Additions have been made to the synagogue campus over the years always in harmony with the original temple building. Ohev Sholom is the largest Reform synagogue in South Central Pennsylvania and the oldest Jewish congregation.
Photographs By Julian H. Preisler - 2012

Beth El Temple is a Conservative congregation established in 1926. Located just up the street from Ohev Sholom, their structure is a striking combination of Moorish-Revival and Byzantine-Revival architecture. Dedicated in 1928, additions have beenmade in 1952 and 1981. Beth El Temple is the largest Jewish congregation in the area.
Photographs By Julian H. Preisler - 2012

In 2009 a tragic fire destroyed the entire interior of the synagogue of Congregation Chisuk Emuno, also in Harrisburg. Located a short distance from Beth El Temple, the congregation was established in 1883 and dedicated their Mid-Century Modern synagogue in 1956. That building stands boarded-up awaiting either re-use or demolition. The congregation broke ground in late 2011 on their new synagogue which will be located a short distance away from the former building. A future blog post will include photographs of their new building once it is completed.
Photographs By Julian H. Preisler - 2012

Harrisburg also has an Orthodox congregation, Kesher Israel, established in 1902. Their Mid-Century Modern synagogue is located in the vicinity of Beth El Temple and the former Chisuk Emuno synagogue. I will post photos of their building when I make another trip up to Harrisburg. Jewish congregations also exist in Carlisle, Mechanicsburg and Middletown, all in the metro Harrisburg-Hershey area. Mechanicsburg's Temple Beth Shalom is the only Reconstructionist Jewish congregation in Central Pennsylvania.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

New Synagogue Photos on My Facebook Page

Lately, I have been posting more and more synagogue photographs and history on my Facebook Page - - I invite you to visit the page and take a look at the images and accompanying historical data. More to come.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Washington, DC Historic Synagogues
I just posted some information and my photographs of three historic synagogues in Washington, DC - The former Adas Israel Congregation now the Sixth and I Historic Synagogue; the former Washington Hebrew Congregation now the Greater New Hope Baptist Church; and the Lillian & Albert Small Jewish Museum which was the original Adas Israel from 1876. You can see it on my Facebook Page:

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Just a quick post with photographs of some of my favorite US synagogues.  First is a small synagogue in Sandusky, Ohio. Oheb Shalom Temple is such a classic 1950's style synagogue and eventhough it is a small building it really has some design punch. the congregation was established in 1905 and the current building dates to 1956. Here is a link to their website:

Photograph By Julian H. Preisler 2011

Congregation Agudas Achim in Columbus (Bexley), Ohio was established in 1881 and is the oldest "traditional" Jewish congregation in the city. Their present East Broad Street synagogue dedicated in 1951 is a well known Bexley landmark and contains a beautiful Holocaust Memorial on the grounds. The building has been expanded and renovated over the years the met the needs of a growing congregation. Find out more on their website:
Photograph By Julian H. Preisler 2011

I found out about this small gem of a synagogue a few years ago and am glad to now have some photographs of it courtesy of Charles "Chip" Rayman. This was his family's congregation. Again, the structure is a Mid-Century Modern gem in Tupelo, Mississippi. The congregation traces its beginnings to 1936 with the formation of the Northeast Mississippi Sisterhood. Jews had settled in Lee County as early as the 1850's though there were not enough in the Community to formalize a Jewish congregation until 1939. This is a rare instance where a Jewish Sisterhood preceded the formation of an actual congregation. The present Mi-Century Modern building was dedicated in 1957. In 2007 a new Bima and Ark were dedicated  in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the synagogue. A new library was dedicated in 2009. Despite its small size, this congregation carries on a long tradtion of activity and providing a Jewish presence in the town known for Elvis Presley.
Photographs Courtesy of Chip Rayman 2011

Just so my readers/viewers will not think that I only like MCM style buildings, though they are my favorites, here is a beautiful example of the Moorish Revival style used on many American synagogues in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Congregation B'nai B'rith was established in Savannah, Georgia in 1861 and this building was dedicated in 1909. It was in use until 1962 when the congregation dedicated a new modern synagogue. The former synagogue was used as a church until 2003 when it was acquird by the Savannah College of Art & Design for use as a Student Center. The building has since been beautifully restored. The current synagogue of the congregation is a rather brutally plain MCM style building, but the Wall behind the Bima is an explosion of style, color and design. There is an image on their website:
Wikipedia Image By Hermann Luyken Used With Permission

One more.....Shearith Israel Congregation is the oldest  and most historic Jewish Congregation in the USA having been established in 1654 by Jews of Sephardic origin who settled in what was the Dutch colony of Neuw Amsterdam.  The congregation, also known as the "Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue" has had six buildings over the last three hundred plus years. Their current synagogue is a stately Neoclassical edifice on Central Park West that was dedicated in 1896. For more information please visit their website:
Photograph By Julian H. Preisler 2010

Friday, April 13, 2012

I've been making an effort to be more active on my "professional" Facebook page and have posted some interesting new synagogue photographs. There are several from Western Pennsylvania that show simple and clean design on Mid-Century Modern synagogues in small towns outside of Pittsburgh. Please take a look and do click "like" if you feel so inclined. As you can tell by many of my posts, I have a great interest in small town synagogues and especially those that were built in the 1950's and 1960's.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Three Beautiful West Virginia Synagogues

A quick posting of photographs of three historic West Virginia Jewish Congregations. While the state's Jewish Community is small in size, there are active and historic Jewish congregations. Here are just three from Charleston and Wheeling. Temple Shalom in Wheeling is the oldest Jewish congregation in the state having been established in 1849. Formed as Congregation L'Shem Shomayim, the present congregation resulted from a merger of the Synagogue of Israel (Conservative) and L'Shem Shomayim (Reform). Known today as Temple Shalom, the congregation has been located in their beautiful Mid-Century Modern synagogue on Bethany Pike since the late 1950's. It is the only domed synagogue in West Virginia. It is beautifully maintained and has wonderful stained glass windows.

Photos by Julian H. Preisler 2009

Temple Israel (Congregation B'nai Israel) in Charleston was formally chartered in 1873 though it was informally organized in 1856. It is the largest Reform congregation in the state and located just steps from the Capitol building on Kanawha Boulevard. The present Mid-Century Modern temple was dedicated in 1960 and is an imposing structure. There is a large main sanctuary, library, school and auditorium. The small chapel contains artifacts from the old Virginia Street Temple building and the synagogue lobby contains stained glass from the old temple. You can learn more about the congregation at

Photo by Julian H. Preisler 2009

B'nai Jacob Synagogue in Charleston is the largest Jewish congregation in West Virginia and also the only "traditional" synagogue to be found in the state today. It was established in 1894 as an Orthodox congregation. Located near the Capitol building, the large synagogue complex contains a very spacious sanctuary, daily chapel, library, gymnasium, school building and also an extensive congregation archives and memorabilia room. Built in 1950, the synagogue was designed in a more restrained Mid-Century Modern style compared to that of Temple Israel and Temple Shalom. The stained glass windows on the facade of the synagogue are known throughout the area for their dramatic beauty. It is a very active congregation along with Temple Israel in Charleston. For more information please see:

Photos by Julian H. Preisler 2009

For more information on the synagogues of West Virginia, Jewish history in the state and vintage images please see my book: "Jewish West Virginia" published by Arcadia Publishing