Since the start of the 20th century, the presence of Jewish students on American university campuses required accommodation of their religious practices. Jewish activities, including prayer, took place in existing campus buildings designed for other purposes. Eventually, at some universities, facilities were built to serve Jewish religious and social needs. These Jewish Student Centers, which include worship spaces yet are typologically different from synagogues, generally have to accommodate the diverse religious streams that characterize Jewish life in the United States. To do so, both architects and Jewish organizations have adapted the idea of ecumenism, by which related sects seek unity through fellowship and dialogue, not doctrinal agreement. Three examples—at Yale, Duke University, and the University of California San Diego—demonstrate differently the situational ecumenism at the core of their designs. These buildings, and other Jewish Student Centers elsewhere, make visible the intersection between American collegiate and Jewish religious values, variously defined.
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