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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 Solny

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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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  • Larry

    Many, many are attending every Friday evening — it’s really breathtaking to see congregants having to sit in the mezzanine if they arrive late, cuz the seats on the main level are taken. The architecture is minimalistic, and not lush, in any sense. And, yes, the liturgy and sermons are of a high standard; and when we pray, we hope that God listens. 😉

  • Larry

    It’s used every Shabbat, with an observation among many that the new Chapel perhaps should have been larger because of attendance.

  • David HaMelech

    WRONG, G-D said I don’t need your sacrifices(money, lush surroundings, comfortablity), I want you to follow my laws.
    That place is against the laws.

    • Larry

      No, it’s not against laws. It’s a space that bridges Temple’s large sanctuary of 60 years with a fairly plain worship space that allows all to hear and see, and feel the energy of 400 attendees praying to God. The architectural plan brings congregants to services early to be a community; the additional pre-school facilities speak to our future (pre-school continues at capacity, with a waiting list).

  • Aliquantillus

    A completely secular atmosphere.

    • Larry

      not so. The space is very understated, but very spiritual; the architecture moves energy from clergy to congregants. Communal prayer is unbelievable. You should come and join us.