Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Perhaps if money were spent on yeshivas and not church like synagogues there would have been less assimmilation?
moe Email 05.06.08 - 12:47 pm #

Ah, the "church-like-synagogue" slur. How familiar. How despised. As someone who grew up in a big and beautiful shul, where the architecture inspired and elevated the prayers, I was quite surprised to discover the basement and storefront shuls of Brooklyn, where people sit at their tables surrounded by clutter and disorder imagining themselves to be heirs to Judaism only authentic synagogue tradition.

As a corrective to those of you who may imagine that big shuls built in contemporary architectural styles are an American phenomenon, perpetrated by assimilationist Jews, we're pleased to provide the following facts and figures:

The Old New Synagogue in Josefov, Prague (also called the Alt-neu Shul, the Altneuschule or Altneusynagoge in German, or Staronová synagoga in Czech) is Europe's oldest active synagogue. It dates to 1270 and looks nothing like a shtible. The filleted ceiling has five points instead of four, recalling the christian cross.

The Sardis Synagouge in Sardis Turkey, which had mosaics on the floors, marbling of the walls, and several Greek inscriptions in the interior, resembled a Roman basilica.

The Synagogue of El Transito in Toledo Spain dates to the 1350s; like many cathedrals and mosques of that time and place, the style of architecture is Mudéjar. It was established by Shmuel Halevi.

The largest shul in the world, incidentally, is the Ger Bes Medrash in Jerusalem.

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