The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Synagogues Built on a Kite-Shape Plan: Four Case Studies from 1827 to 1959

While most synagogues have a rectangular plan, a smaller number depart from this scheme, particularly in the course of 20th century modernism. The kite-shape plan is one of these complex geometries used for places of Jewish worship. These synagogues were created first in order to maximise available urban space, and later as a sake for itself. The history of this type goes back to the Vormärz period, before the great revolutions of 1848, when Jews did not have yet civil rights, and continued to the Gründerzeit as a by-product of Jewish emancipation in Central Europe. By 1900 synagogues of this type became obsolete, as Jews succeeded to leave constrains behind. However, 20th century anti-Semitism has brought back the kite-shape plan in Central Europe, while in Post-World-War Two United States it resurrected in the wake of suburbanisation, when Jews moved from the crowded urban centres to outlying areas of major urban centres and the strife of American Jews to create a significant piece of architecture as epitome of their favourable social position, similarly to late 19th century Europe.

The paper is based on four case studies, reform synagogues in Arad (1827), Austrian Empire and in Leipzig (1855), Saxony; the orthodox synagogue in Budapest Páva Street (1920), Hungarian Kingdom and the Beith Sholom conservative synagogue in Elkins Park, Pennsylvania, US (1953-59). Each of them shows different social and architectural/urban context, but highlight formal and spatial similarities. All four cases are analysed from an architectural and from a historical point of view, pointing out similarities and differences of the edifices and the forces creating them.

Rudolf Klein

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