Beth Sholom's congregation was founded in Philadelphia's Logan section in 1919 and joined the migration out of the city after World War II. Its rabbi, Mortimer J. Cohen, saw the opportunity presented by a celebrity designer and asked Frank Lloyd Wright, then in his eighties, to design an “American Synagogue.” Wright responded with a scheme that blended contemporary technology using steel girders clad with aluminum casings along the ridge lines and infilled with modern wire glass to create a sculptural volume that merged the plan necessitated by worship with symbolic content. Glittering by day and aglow at night, it was intended by Wright to convey something of the feel of a “luminous Mt. Sinai.” Within are two principal spaces: the main hall seating in excess of one thousand, above which soars the light-filled shell; and in the lower space, a smaller hall seating two hundred that mimics the shape of the main hall. Unifying the disparate elements is Wright's characteristic overlay of ornament, here lozenge-shaped forms that reiterate the major material and religious themes.
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Beth Sholom Synagogue
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