Special Issue "Synagogue Art and Architecture"

A special issue of Arts (ISSN 2076-0752). This special issue belongs to the section "Applied Arts".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (8 November 2019).

Special Issue Editor

Dr. Ilia Rodov
Website
Guest Editor
Professor and Chairperson, Department of Jewish Art, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan 5290002, Israel
Interests: synagogue art and architecture; Jewish visual culture; folk art; phenomenology of plastic arts

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Since its inception in antiquity, synagogue architecture has served Jewish needs for communal prayer and gathering, exhibiting a great diversity of spatial arrangements and ritual venue designs. Scholarly attention to synagogue architecture and art emerged about one and a half centuries ago. Since that time, the object of research has undergone considerable metamorphosis. Numerous synagogues were demolished in wars and social disasters; others were abandoned or ruined over the course of time. During the same period, new synagogues were built, ancient and medieval synagogues were unearthed, and a number of old synagogues were reconstructed or recreated. Synagogue research has evolved from descriptive surveys and quests for typologies to case studies, to interdisciplinary investigations of the semantics and functions of buildings and artwork, and into studies of the processes of the creation, comprehension, and preservation of synagogue architecture and art. Investigations of religious, communal, and personal identities expressed visually have proven more fruitful than the prior scholarly preoccupation with the dilemma: "Does Jewish art/architecture exist?"

This Special Issue offers a global, online, free-access platform for representing current research in the field. We invite historians of art and architecture; historians; archaeologists; and experts in religion, literature, folklore, and anthropology to join the ongoing exchange of ideas on synagogue architecture and art by submitting a paper to be considered for publication.

The Special Issue will include discussion of synagogue architecture and art from all time periods and places. Submissions are encouraged on, but not limited to, the following subjects:

  • newly excavated synagogues and synagogue fragments in Israel, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and elsewhere;
  • synagogue architecture and art in the Balkans, Scandinavia, North Africa, Asia (including South and East Asia) and the Americas;
  • producers and patrons of synagogue architecture and art; architectural theories and artistic concepts regarding synagogues; perceptions of synagogue buildings and decoration;
  • symbolic, mystical, liturgical, didactic, ideological and political dimensions of synagogue art and architecture;
  • iconophobia, iconoclasm, censorship, and halakhic attitudes to visuality in synagogues;
  • real and mental geographies: the Temple, Jerusalem and the Holy Land as symbols, models, subjects, and relics in synagogue architecture and art; the synagogues of exiles and immigrants; synagogues of congregations preserving specific liturgical rites;
  • preservation, reconstruction, re-use, and conversion of synagogues.

Special thanks to the Center for Jewish Art for providing its copyright materials for the articles in this issue of Arts, free of charge. Please consult the Bezalel Narkiss Index of Jewish Art, http://cja.huji.ac.il/browser.php, the largest database on Jewish art and architecture.

Dr. Ilia Rodov
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Arts is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • synagogue architecture
  • synagogue art
  • Jewish ritual spaces
  • Jewish art
  • ritual architecture and art

Published Papers (14 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
“Jewish Building” in the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic after the Holocaust. Possibilities, Limits, Spaces
Arts 2020, 9(1), 38; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts9010038 - 12 Mar 2020
Abstract
As early as the first months after the Second World War had ended, newly founded Jewish communities were beginning to form in Germany. These communities were established further in the years to follow, in the course of which new synagogues and community centers [...] Read more.
As early as the first months after the Second World War had ended, newly founded Jewish communities were beginning to form in Germany. These communities were established further in the years to follow, in the course of which new synagogues and community centers were erected. In today’s perceptions, these building projects are often seen in the context of the efforts of gentile society to make reparations (Wiedergutmachung). This article examines the possibilities and conditions under which non-Jewish post-Nazi society was operating in regard to enabling “Jewish building (Jüdisches Bauen)”, and highlights the tremendous influence that political action has had on the projects of the Jewish communities. The synagogue projects in Mannheim and Würzburg are used as examples to illustrate this issue as it reflects in the Federal Republic of Germany. This article brings forth, for the first time, a description of the situation in the German Democratic Republic providing an overview on the extent of the construction activity. Subsequently, observations over the use of the term and the concept of “Jewish building (Jüdisches Bauen)” are outlined. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Synagogue Art and Architecture)
Open AccessArticle
Staging Proto-Zionism. Jewish Quarter of Zemun, Serbia: Historical Evidence, Structure, Meaning
Arts 2020, 9(1), 27; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts9010027 - 25 Feb 2020
Abstract
Zemun is an old Central European town on the right bank of the Danube River, today one of the boroughs of Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. There has been a small Jewish community in Zemun dating back to the mid-18th century. Some of [...] Read more.
Zemun is an old Central European town on the right bank of the Danube River, today one of the boroughs of Belgrade, the capital of Serbia. There has been a small Jewish community in Zemun dating back to the mid-18th century. Some of the Jews who lived in Zemun in the 19th century contributed to the emergence of Zionism. This paper presents new archival information about Zemun’s Jewish quarter including an analysis of the Zemun synagogue as well as various hermeneutic explanations of its urban and architectural development. Previous analyses of this area of Zemun have focused on external and morphological characteristics of its religious architecture but failed to explain its conceptual, historical, socio-political and religious context. This paper will cover these new elements as well as establish a basis for understanding this part of the old urban core of Zemun in relation to the significant personalities who lived there and the important ideas they developed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Synagogue Art and Architecture)
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Open AccessArticle
The Construction of the Great Synagogue in Stockholm, 1860–1870: A Space for Jewish and Swedish-Christian Dialogues
Arts 2020, 9(1), 22; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts9010022 - 13 Feb 2020
Abstract
The construction of the Great Synagogue in Stockholm during the 1860s initiated Jewish communal debates on the position and public presence of Jews in the Swedish pre-emancipatory society. An investigation into the construction process not only reveals various Jewish opinions on the sacred [...] Read more.
The construction of the Great Synagogue in Stockholm during the 1860s initiated Jewish communal debates on the position and public presence of Jews in the Swedish pre-emancipatory society. An investigation into the construction process not only reveals various Jewish opinions on the sacred building, but also the pivotal role of Swedish-Christian actors in shaping the synagogue’s location, architecture, and the way it was presented in the public narrative. The Jewish community’s conceptualization and the Swedish society’s reception of the new synagogue turned it into a space on the ‘frontier.’ Conceptually situated in-between the Jewish community and the Swedish-Christian society, it encouraged cross-border interactions and became a physical product of the Jewish and Swedish-Christian entangled relationship. Non-Jewish architect Fredrik Wilhelm Scholander, historical figures prominent in the Swedish national narrative, and local and national newspapers were incorporated by the Jewish lay leadership into the creative process, and they influenced and circulated the community’s self-understanding as both Swedish citizens and Jews of a modern religion. The construction process and final product strategically communicated Jewish belonging to the Swedish nation during the last decade of social and legal inequality, thus adding to the contemporary political debate on Jewish emancipation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Synagogue Art and Architecture)
Open AccessArticle
Exceptionally Jewish: Israeli Synagogue Architecture in the 1960s and 1970s
Arts 2020, 9(1), 21; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts9010021 - 12 Feb 2020
Abstract
This article examines three exceptional synagogues designed in Israel in the 1960s and 1970s. It aims to explore the tension between these iconic structures and the artworks integrated into them. The investigation of each case study is comprised of a survey of the [...] Read more.
This article examines three exceptional synagogues designed in Israel in the 1960s and 1970s. It aims to explore the tension between these iconic structures and the artworks integrated into them. The investigation of each case study is comprised of a survey of the architecture and interior design, and of ceremonial objects and Jewish art pieces. Against the backdrop of contemporary international trends, the article distinguishes between adopted styles and genuine (i.e., originally conceived) design processes. The case studies reveal a shared tendency to abstract religious symbolism while formulating a new Jewish-national visual canon. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Synagogue Art and Architecture)
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Open AccessArticle
The Medieval Synagogue of Molina de Aragón: Architecture and Decoration
Arts 2020, 9(1), 9; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts9010009 - 12 Jan 2020
Abstract
The remains of a medieval synagogue, in addition to numerous fragments of plaster decoration, have been found as a result of the excavation work done at the Prao de los Judíos archaeological site in the town of Molina de Aragón (Guadalajara, Spain). These [...] Read more.
The remains of a medieval synagogue, in addition to numerous fragments of plaster decoration, have been found as a result of the excavation work done at the Prao de los Judíos archaeological site in the town of Molina de Aragón (Guadalajara, Spain). These remains suggest that the synagogue was built in the second half of the thirteenth century and that it was refashioned later in the fourteenth century following the same artistic model of the synagogues of Córdoba and El Tránsito. Based on comparative analysis, this article studies the Synagogue of Molina de Aragón in relation to other medieval Iberian synagogues. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Synagogue Art and Architecture)
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Open AccessArticle
Maribor Synagogue: Between Facts and Reinterpretation
Arts 2020, 9(1), 5; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts9010005 - 10 Jan 2020
Abstract
Maribor Synagogue is one of the few preserved medieval synagogues in Central Europe. The renovation of the building between 1992 and 1999, undertaken by the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia, proved to be much more demanding than originally foreseen. [...] Read more.
Maribor Synagogue is one of the few preserved medieval synagogues in Central Europe. The renovation of the building between 1992 and 1999, undertaken by the Institute for the Protection of Cultural Heritage of Slovenia, proved to be much more demanding than originally foreseen. Its architectural shell and architectural elements have served as a reference point for the (visual) reconstruction of related monuments in the wider region. However, the renovation itself has left numerous unanswered questions, especially in regard to the building phases during the Jewish and later Christian use of the building. The present article is the first scientific publication to thoroughly examine the medieval building phases, based on the findings of archaeological research and investigation of the documented and preserved architectural elements. Ground plans are attached for the initial two building phases, related to the archeological charts. The last phase corresponds to the reconstructed version of the synagogue, but convincing evidence relating to its appearance is missing. Although it is practically impossible to provide an entirely accurate building history based on the archival, oral and material evidence so far available, a significant step toward its general comprehension is made. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Synagogue Art and Architecture)
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Open AccessArticle
Prey of Pray: Allegorizing the Liturgical Practice
Arts 2020, 9(1), 3; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts9010003 - 30 Dec 2019
Abstract
Numerous images embedded in the painted decorations in early modern Central and Eastern European synagogues conveyed allegorical messages to the congregation. The symbolism was derived from biblical verses, stories, legends, and prayers, and sometimes different allegories were combined to develop coherent stories. In [...] Read more.
Numerous images embedded in the painted decorations in early modern Central and Eastern European synagogues conveyed allegorical messages to the congregation. The symbolism was derived from biblical verses, stories, legends, and prayers, and sometimes different allegories were combined to develop coherent stories. In the present case study, which concerns a bird, seemingly a nocturnal raptor, depicted on the ceiling of the Unterlimpurg Synagogue, I explore the symbolism of this image in the contexts of liturgy, eschatology, and folklore. I undertake a comparative analysis of paintings in medieval and early modern illuminated manuscripts—both Christian and Jewish—and in synagogues in both Eastern and Central Europe. I argue that in some Hebrew illuminated manuscripts and synagogue paintings, nocturnal birds of prey may have been positive representations of the Jewish people, rather than simply a response to their negative image in Christian literature and art, but also a symbol of redemption. In the Unterlimpurg Synagogue, the night bird of prey, combined with other symbolic elements, represented a complex allegoric picture of redemption, possibly implying the image of King David and the kabbalistic nighttime prayer Tikkun Ḥaẓot. This case study demonstrates the way in which early modern synagogue painters created allegoric paintings that captured contemporary religious and mystical ideas and liturgical developments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Synagogue Art and Architecture)
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Open AccessArticle
The Question of Appropriateness. Museums Established in Synagogues in Communist Poland: The Cases of Łańcut and Włodawa
Arts 2019, 8(4), 167; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts8040167 - 17 Dec 2019
Abstract
World War II and the subsequent period of communist rule severely diminished the amount of historic Jewish architecture in Poland. It is estimated that in the mid-1990s there were about 321 synagogues and prayer houses in the country, all in various states of [...] Read more.
World War II and the subsequent period of communist rule severely diminished the amount of historic Jewish architecture in Poland. It is estimated that in the mid-1990s there were about 321 synagogues and prayer houses in the country, all in various states of preservation. This article examines two case studies of synagogues that were salvaged by being transformed into Judaica museums. The first of these is the synagogue in Łańcut and the second concerns the complex of two synagogues and one prayer house in Włodawa. The article contains an analysis of both examples from the perspective of the following factors: the circumstances under which the institution was established, the place that the history and culture of Jews took in the Museum’s activity, the way that Judaica collections and exhibitions were constructed, the substantive, educational, and research activities that were undertaken, as well as the issue of what place these monuments occupy in the town’s landscape. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Synagogue Art and Architecture)
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Open AccessArticle
Art and Identity in Late Antique Synagogues of the Roman-Byzantine Diaspora
Arts 2019, 8(4), 164; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts8040164 - 10 Dec 2019
Abstract
Late antiquity witnessed the increased construction of synagogues in the Jewish diaspora of the Roman-Byzantine world. Although not large in number, these synagogues were impressive and magnificent structures that were certainly conspicuous in the urban landscape, especially when constructed within a central location. [...] Read more.
Late antiquity witnessed the increased construction of synagogues in the Jewish diaspora of the Roman-Byzantine world. Although not large in number, these synagogues were impressive and magnificent structures that were certainly conspicuous in the urban landscape, especially when constructed within a central location. This paper focuses on mosaic carpets discovered at these synagogues, to discern their distinguishing features through a comparative perspective. Two focal points are examined: on the one hand, local Roman-Byzantine mosaics in civic and religious buildings, and on the other hand, Jewish mosaics carpets in Palestinian synagogues. This comparison reveals several clear distinctions between the Jewish diasporic mosaic carpets and the other two groups of mosaics, that broaden our understanding of the unique nature of Jewish art in the Roman-Byzantine diaspora in particular, and of Jewish diasporic identity in late antiquity in general. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Synagogue Art and Architecture)
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Open AccessArticle
Perceptions. The Unbuilt Synagogue in Buda through Controversial Architectural Tenders (1912–1914)
Arts 2019, 8(4), 149; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts8040149 - 08 Nov 2019
Abstract
The unbuilt synagogue in Buda is an almost forgotten chapter in Hungarian architectural history which drew great attention between 1911 and 1914. It was discussed extensively by the contemporary press in the early 20th century and by architects in the Hungarian capital of [...] Read more.
The unbuilt synagogue in Buda is an almost forgotten chapter in Hungarian architectural history which drew great attention between 1911 and 1914. It was discussed extensively by the contemporary press in the early 20th century and by architects in the Hungarian capital of Austria–Hungary. Between 1912 and 1914 three tenders for the design of the synagogue of Buda were announced, with the participation of well-known (synagogue) architects of Hungary, who represented the diverse architectural styles of the period. The efforts to build the synagogue, including the three failed tenders, the 30 competition designs and the opinions of contemporaries raised, and continue to raise, many provocative questions. The present study is based on the analysis of the designs submitted and criticisms published in official architecture magazines between 1912 and 1914, but not yet studied and published elsewhere. Through these, the study showcases the controversial architectural decisions that could have changed the appearance of a neighbourhood but failed to do so. The study puts the townscape of Széll Kálmán Square in Buda in a new context, revealing another layer of architecture, urban design and architectural-sociology and perception of the capital’s synagogue on the eve of World War I and the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Synagogue Art and Architecture)
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Open AccessArticle
Revisiting Epigraphic Evidence of the Oldest Synagogue in Morocco in Volubilis
Arts 2019, 8(4), 127; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts8040127 - 27 Sep 2019
Abstract
Volubilis was a Roman city located at the southwest extremity of the Roman Empire in modern-day Morocco. Several Jewish gravestone inscriptions in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, likely from the 3rd century CE, have been found there. One of them belongs to “Protopolites Kaikilianos, [...] Read more.
Volubilis was a Roman city located at the southwest extremity of the Roman Empire in modern-day Morocco. Several Jewish gravestone inscriptions in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, likely from the 3rd century CE, have been found there. One of them belongs to “Protopolites Kaikilianos, the head of a Jewish congregation (synagogue)”, and it indicates the presence of a relatively big Jewish community in the city. The Hebrew inscription of “Matrona, daughter of Rabbi Yehuda” is unique occurrence of using the Hebrew language in such a remote region. The Latin inscription belongs to “Antonii Sabbatrai”, likely a Jew. In addition, two lamps decorated with menorahs, one from bronze and one from clay, were found in Volubilis. In nearby Chellah, a Jewish inscription in Greek was also discovered. We revisit these inscriptions including their language, spelling mistakes, and their interpretations. We relate epigraphic sources to archaeological evidence and discuss a possible location of the synagogue in this remote city, which was the first synagogue in Morocco. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Synagogue Art and Architecture)
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Open AccessArticle
A New Orthodox Synagogue in Manhattan: Decision-Making and Design
Arts 2019, 8(3), 113; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts8030113 - 04 Sep 2019
Abstract
The Lincoln Square Synagogue, the largest Orthodox synagogue built in Manhattan during the last half century, was established in 1964 but moved in 2013 to a new building nearby, designed after the firm of CetraRuddy Architects, won a design competition. The present article [...] Read more.
The Lincoln Square Synagogue, the largest Orthodox synagogue built in Manhattan during the last half century, was established in 1964 but moved in 2013 to a new building nearby, designed after the firm of CetraRuddy Architects, won a design competition. The present article is based on interviews with building committee members, the rabbi, and the architects as well as on press accounts and a book about the congregation’s history. The article recounts the process of designing the building, assesses the successful results, and provides future building committee members with ideas, caveats, and evaluations of design procedures. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Synagogue Art and Architecture)
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Open AccessArticle
Situational Ecumenism: The Architecture of Jewish Student Centers on American University Campuses
Arts 2019, 8(3), 107; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts8030107 - 23 Aug 2019
Abstract
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 [...] Read more.
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. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Synagogue Art and Architecture)
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Open AccessArticle
Synagogue Architecture of Latvia between Archeology and Eschatology
Arts 2019, 8(3), 99; https://doi.org/10.3390/arts8030099 - 05 Aug 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Synagogue architecture during the second half of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century was seeking novel modes of expression, and therefore the remains of ancient synagogues that were being discovered by western archeologists within the borders of the [...] Read more.
Synagogue architecture during the second half of the nineteenth century and the early part of the twentieth century was seeking novel modes of expression, and therefore the remains of ancient synagogues that were being discovered by western archeologists within the borders of the Biblical Land of Israel became a new source of inspiration. As far away as the New World, the design of contemporary synagogues was influenced by discoveries such as by the American Jewish architect, Arnold W. Brunner, who referenced the Baram Synagogue in the Galilee in his Henry S. Frank Memorial Synagogue at the Jewish Hospital in Philadelphia (1901). Less known is the fact that the archaeological discoveries in the Middle East also influenced the design of synagogues in the interwar period, in the newly-independent Baltic state of Latvia. Local architects picked up information about these archaeological finds from professional and popular editions published in German and Russian. Good examples are two synagogues along the Riga seaside, in Majori and Bulduri, and another in the inland town of Bauska. As was the case in America, the archaeological references in these Latvian examples were infused with eschatological meaning. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Synagogue Art and Architecture)
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