(23W3) North American Synagogue Architecture (19 Feb 2023)

February 19th, 2023, 2:00 pm - 3:15 pm


 Touro Synagogue, RI Eldridge St Synagogue, NY Beth Sholom Synagogue, PA

Touro Synagogue, RI                 Eldridge St Shul, NY        Beth Sholom Synagogue, PA

The presentation will examine the evolution of the synagogue in North America through the lens of architectural design, and delve into the religious, social, political and economic influences that affected its development.

Seminal events such as the destruction of the first and second Temples in Jerusalem and subsequent exiles, the rise of Christianity, the expulsions from Spain and other European lands, the Enlightenment, the great migrations to North America, the Shoah and the establishment of the State of Israel all impacted the way that Jews congregated, studied and prayed – and all of these had direct impacts on how the places that housed these activities were designed, built and used.

In North America, the Jewish experience was unique, and the architectural styles for Jewish community buildings reflected the variety of expressions of the flowering of Jewish identity, economic security and confidence.  These will be examined from the first waves of Jewish arrivals in the 1700s, and touch on the mass immigration of the late 1800s and 1900s, the first post-war generation, the move to the suburbs, and finally the late twentieth century, with its proliferation of styles reflecting the kaleidoscope of Jewish communities, identities and cultures.

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Les Klein is the principal, co-founder and studio head of BDP Quadrangle, an architectural and planning firm based in Toronto, Canada. His practice encompasses master planning of innovative urban residential development, adaptive reuse of existing structures and creating dynamic environments for ideas-based entrepreneurs. In 1994, he was inducted into the College of Fellows of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada and in 2015, he received the Order of Da Vinci Award for service to the profession and the community from the Ontario Association of Architects. Mr. Klein has held numerous leadership roles in the Jewish Federation of Greater Toronto and served on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Technion Society. He holds three degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)– Master of Architecture and undergraduate degrees in Arts and Design as well as in Mathematics.