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The Synagogues of Kentucky

The Synagogues of Kentucky: Architecture and History

Lee Shai Weissbach
Copyright Date: 1995
Edition: 1
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    The Synagogues of Kentucky
    Book Description:

    Lee Shai Weissbach's innovative study sheds light on the functioning of smaller Jewish communities in a state representative of many in the Midwest and South. The synagogue buildings of Kentucky tell much about the experience of Kentucky Jewry. Synagogues, especially in smaller towns, have often served as the only setting available for a wide variety of communal activities. Weissbach outlines the history of every congregation established in Kentucky and every house of worship that has served Kentucky Jewry over the last 150 years, considering such issues as the financing of construction, the selection of architects, the way synagogue buildings reveal congregational attitudes, and the way local synagogue design reflects national trends. Eighty-two photographs show every one of Kentucky's synagogues, including buildings that are no longer standing or have been converted to other uses. This pictorial record documents the variety, distinctiveness, and significance of these buildings as a part of the Commonwealth's architectural, cultural, and religious landscape.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4802-1
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Maps
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Sponsor’s Foreword
    (pp. ix-xi)
    David L. Morgan

    Kentucky’s Thousands of cultural resources form a tangible record of twelve thousand years of history and prehistory. They include archaeological sites such as native American villages and burial mounds, the historic remains of fortifications of our first European settlers, and Civil War earthworks and battlefields. Above ground are structures ranging from individual houses to entire streetscapes of Victorian commercial buildings. These resources combine to form a past and present environment—a cultural landscape—worthy of preservation.

    Preservationists have always made decisions about which cultural resources should remain for future generations, but these decisions are becoming even more difficult. No longer...

  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. x-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    Sometimes in the summer of 1842 a group of Jewish men assembled in Louisville, probably in one of the upper-floor rooms of Tandler’s boardinghouse on Market Street, where they normally met for prayer services. The men who got together a few blocks from the Ohio River that summer's day discussed the recent growth of their little company of worshipers and decided that it was time to formalize the structure of their group and to seek a charter from the state. The formal recognition for which these early Louisvillians applied was granted on September 11, 1842, and the group adopted a...

  7. Chapter 1 The Formation of Kentucky’s Jewish Congregations
    (pp. 11-34)

    From the perspective of Jewish tradition, very little is required in order for a group of individuals to organize for public worship. Jewish practice does not require that prayer services be conducted with the participation of a rabbi, or within a synagogue building, or with the sanction of any hierarchical authority. Traditionally, the only fundamental requirement for Jewish public worship has been the presence of aminyan,a quorum of ten adult men, and in recent times even that requirement has been modified within some communities. Today, in some circles, women may be counted in theminyan,or the standards...

  8. Chapter 2 Kentucky Synagogue Buildings
    (pp. 35-52)

    A story is told about a Jewish traveler who, finding himself far from home one Sabbath, decided to attend services at a local synagogue. In order to make the stranger feel welcome, the congregation honored him by inviting him to participate in the ritual of the reading of the Torah. As he waited his turn to go up to the reader’s table, the man noticed that all those who were called to the Torah before him walked about halfway down the aisle of the synagogue, stooped low, then straightened themselves and proceeded to the front of the sanctuary. The visitor...

  9. Chapter 3 The First Century of Synagogue Design
    (pp. 53-92)

    Whenever a jewish congreation in Kentucky undertook the construction of a new synagogue building, whether a century ago or only in the last decade, it had to face several fundamental questions. Where would the structure stand? What facilities would it house? How would it look? In arriving at answers to these and similar questions, Kentucky’s Jewish congregations, like Jewish congregations elsewhere in the United States, had a great deal of liberty. Throughout America (and increasingly in Western Europe as well by the nineteenth century), governments generally refrained from imposing discriminatory restrictions on the construction of Jewish places of worship, as...

  10. Chapter 4 Synagogue Design since World War II
    (pp. 93-120)

    The years immediately after World War II marked a major watershed in American synagogue construction, for as Jews all over America migrated from the central city and out to the suburbs, it only made sense for their congregations to follow them and for new synagogues to be built in those neighborhoods that were attracting large numbers of Jewish families. The migration of Jews from downtown Louisville to the Highlands was reflected in the relocation of that city’s congregations at midcentury. At the same time, moreover, membership rolls were growing, and this too served as a stimulus for synagogue construction. Congregational...

  11. Discovering Kentucky’s Synagogues: An Essay on Bibliography and Methodology
    (pp. 121-146)

    The available sources of information about Kentucky’s congregations and synagogue buildings are widely scattered and highly varied, and in order to compile the information and create the visual record presented in this book, it was necessary to gather bits of data and individual images from a great many places. This essay reviews the many sources I used and examines some of the research problems I encountered. For researchers who may want to consult this volume as a model for synagogue surveys in other regions of the United States, this essay will be especially useful for what it reveals about research...

  12. Tables

    • Table 1 The Jewish Population of Kentucky and Selected Kentucky Cities in Selected Years
      (pp. 149-149)
    • Table 2 The Jewish Congregations of Kentucky, by Date of Establishment
      (pp. 150-151)
    • Table 3 The Jewish Congregations of Kentucky, by City
      (pp. 152-152)
    • Table 4 Kentucky Synagogue Sites, by Date of Occupancy
      (pp. 153-154)
    • Table 5 The Life Course of Kentucky’s Synagogue Buildings
      (pp. 155-157)
    • Table 6 Kentucky Congregations in Alphabetical Order and Their Synagogue Sites
      (pp. 158-159)
    • Table 7 Buildings Constructed as Synagogues Kentucky and Their Architects
      (pp. 160-162)
  13. Appendices

    • Appendix A A Newspaper Account of the Destruction of Kentucky’s First Synagogue
      (pp. 165-166)
    • Appendix B A Newspaper Account of the Dedication of the Synagogue in Owensboro
      (pp. 167-168)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 169-176)
  15. Index
    (pp. 177-184)