Sunday, January 2, 2011

Temple House of Israel

When they outgrew their meeting place on Kalaroma Street, the local Reform Jewish congregation (founded 1876) purchased a lot on North Market Street from Mary Baldwin College and engaged Sam Collins, nephew of T.J. Collins, to design a new house of worship. The cornerstone, dated 1925, was set by the local Masonic lodge. Since that time, this unique building has been in continuous use by the local Jewish community.

The building’s design is in Moorish style, rare among synagogues in the United States. The building itself, the treasured Connick stained glass windows, the Mercer ceramic tiles and other architectural details of the bima contribute to the structure’s historic and architectural significance. The stained glass windows, lights, and entry glass were designed and constructed by Charles Connick Associates of Boston. Connick, who was also responsible for the rose windows of St. Patrick's Cathedral and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, is considered second only to Tiffany in importance. Staunton’s Temple House of Israel is one of very few structures that still has the full complement of original glass as it was installed.

Rabbi Joe Blair, of Temple House of Israel, was appointed adjunct professor of religion at Mary Baldwin College in 2004. He also serves as Rabbi of Harrisonburg's Beth El Congregation.

Photo below: the architecturally distinctive ark that holds the Torah.

The former school (below) that served as home for Temple House of Israel's congregation from 1876 until 1925. It still stands, now somewhat derelict, diagonally across from the Stonewall Jackson Hotel, at the corner of Kalorama and South Market Streets.

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