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January 3, 2017 3:36 pm

Dallas Synagogue Named One of the ‘Best Things America Built in 2016’ by Slate Magazine

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

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Stern Chapel inside Temple Emanu-El in Dallas. Photo: Temple Emanu-El.

Stern Chapel inside Temple Emanu-El in Dallas. Photo: Temple Emanu-El.

A synagogue in North Dallas that underwent a $34 million renovation last year was listed by Slate Magazine as one of “the best things America built in 2016.”

Temple Emanu-El, home to the largest Reform congregation in the Southwest, underwent some drastic changes, thanks to Dallas architect Gary Cunningham. The highlight of the project was the construction of the Stern Chapel, a semi-circlular auditorium that seats 450 people, has glass panels and overlooks four oak trees in the synagogue’s courtyard. The chapel was named after Temple Emanu-El Chief Rabbi David Stern as a condition for a $5 million donation from a congregant.

“What we wanted to do is bring the beauty of nature into the worship experience,” Rabbi Stern said of the new sanctuary.

The massive renovation included the construction of a living space and education wing, the remodeling of existing public and administrative areas and a new landscape program. There was also a restoration of the synagogue’s main chapel, the Olan Sanctuary — a rounded room with LED lighting in the chandeliers and stained glass — and the Lefkowitz Chapel, which has a seating capacity of 200.

This is not the first time the synagogue has received recognition for its architecture. In December 2016, the real-estate blog Curbed gave Temple Emanu-El the Best New Place to Pray (and Boy Do We Need It) Award. The congregation has moved locations three times since its first temple was built in 1876, according to Slate Magazine. The publication noted that over the years, the temple’s design has changed from Moorish to Romanesque and neoclassical styles.

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