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Building Bust

The unbuilt synagogues of the Great Depression

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Chicago’s Temple Mizpah dreamed oriental dreams of a different style, planning a large, domed, Byzantine synagogue—the most fashionable choice for American synagogues in the 1920s. Alas, only the Hebrew School wing was ever built. The congregation later merged with Temple Judea of Skokie.

Left: Temple Mizpah's planned Byzantine synagogue, with the Hebrew School on the right. Right: Temple Mizpah's former Hebrew School.

Left: Temple Mizpah’s planned Byzantine synagogue, with the Hebrew School on the right. Right: Temple Mizpah’s former Hebrew School.

CREDIT: Robb Packer, author of Doors of Redemption

Detroit’s Congregation Shaarey Zedek got the Byzantine revival building it wanted, only smaller—much, much smaller. The congregation originally asked Albert Kahn—“the man who built Detroit”—for a $750,000 campus, complete with gymnasium, library, school building, offices, chapel, auditorium, a banquet hall seating 1,200, a small sanctuary seating 500, and a main sanctuary to seat 2,500. It had to settle for a handsome $300,000 Byzantine building with no frills and no gymnasium. However, in 1962 architect Percival Goodman would pull out all the stops for the congregation’s futurist synagogue in suburban Southfield.

Congregation Anshe Emet’s 1929 plan for a new Chicago synagogue was bold, a cutting-edge design with the strong vertical lines of the Art Deco/Art Moderne movement, topped by a wonderful pair of lions. The congregation settled for a renovation that added davening space to the old Hebrew School building, and later moved to Lakeview.

Left: Anshe Emet's unbuilt plan for an Art Deco synagogue beside the Hebrew School that it already owned. Right: The modest Art Deco renovation of the Hebrew School façade that was actually carried out.

Left: Anshe Emet’s unbuilt plan for an Art Deco synagogue beside the Hebrew School that it already owned. Right: The modest Art Deco renovation of the Hebrew School façade that was actually carried out.

CREDIT: Robb Packer, author of Doors of Redemption

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Building Bust

The unbuilt synagogues of the Great Depression