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Mendelsohn's Synagogues in America

Sunday, April 11, 2021 29 Nisan 5781

7:00 PM - 8:00 PM

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Join us on Zoom:

We are excited to invite you to Beth El for an extensively illustrated presentation by photographer Michael Craig Palmer on the American synagogue architecture of Eric Mendelsohn on April 11 at 7:00 on Zoom. Eric Mendelsohn was one of the great modern architects of the twentieth century, as well as a designer deeply influenced by his strong Jewish identity.    

Born in Germany in 1887, his first project was a bet tahara, a place for the preparation of the deceased for funerals, an amazing and now restored small building full of respect for these final rituals. He received international fame for the revolutionary design of the Einstein Tower observatory in Potsdam, and his status grew with the streamlined design of the Schocken Department Stores throughout Germany during the 1920s. In 1933, he and his wife Louise escaped Germany and settled in Mandatory Palestine, opening an architectural office in Jerusalem. He wrote, “We shall live quietly for ourselves, for the work – for our people. There is no other, no greater task – Yerushalayim. We must make it worthy…”to build the Bible.”  He certainly did, designing both the Hadassah Hospital complex and Hebrew University campus on Mount Scopus, and taking Hebrew lessons from the daughter of Eliezer ben Yehudah. After World War II, the Mendelsohns moved to the United States,  and eventually worked and taught in San Francisco. In this last phase of Mendelsohn’s life and career, he designed seven synagogues, four of which, all in the Midwest, were built. Three of these buildings – Park Synagogue in Cleveland, Mount Zion Temple in St. Paul, and Temple Emmanuel in Grand Rapids – are still used as synagogues, while the fourth (and best known to our members), B’nai Amoona in Saint Louis, is now a community arts center.

These great and evocative structures have received relatively little individual attention. Our guest, photographer Michael Craig Palmer, has filled this gap with his new book Eric Mendelsohn’s Synagogues in America, with both beautiful images and insightful commentary. We think his presentation is especially appropriate as we adapt the design of our own distinctive building to contemporary needs. We are excited to welcome Mr. Palmer to speak about Mendelsohn, his American synagogues, and the design philosophy of this great and thoughtful designer, who wrote:

Judaism is not simple-minded and unambiguous, but full of contradiction. . . Open the great document of Jewish antiquity wherever you want. One will find everywhere the feeling and experience of duality, and everywhere the striving for unity. . . It is the quest for unity that lit the creative forces of the Jew. . . The creative Jews are the victors over duality, their positive overcoming the yes over the no, the creation over despair, the triumph of yearning.

To sign up for this program, register below.  Questions can be directed to Robby Erlich, Engagement Coordinator at



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Thu, April 15 2021 3 Iyyar 5781