Segments in this Video

Introduction: Synagogues: Absence and Presence (02:30)


The history of synagogues stretches back over 3,000 years. These buildings often feature a modest exterior, meant to blend into its surroundings, and more lavish interiors.

Solomon's Temple (03:26)

Historians believe the first Jewish temple was built on Mount Moriah, though no archeological evidence remains; Jewish pilgrims were required to visit three times a year. In modern synagogues, the Torah is carefully stored in the ark.

Wailing Wall (04:04)

The Kotel is what remains of the Second Jewish Temple, built by King Herod; it burned during a conflict with the Romans. Judaism is not fixated on buildings or objects, but the power of memory, ideas, and words.

Tunisian Synagogues (07:54)

The first Jews to settle on the isle of Djerba were likely refugees from the destruction of Solomon’s Temple. Dominique Jarrasse discusses the design of the Ghriba Synagogue built in the 6th century BCE. Rabbis are said to have buried relics beneath the structure.

Al-Andalus (04:41)

Arabs rule southern Spain for 700 years. Muslims and Sephardic Jews coexist peacefully, enriching one another’s cultures. Jews prosper in Cordoba; the Cordoba Synagogue is rediscovered during the 19th century.

El Transito Synagogue (04:19)

In the third century, a Jewish community settles in Toledo, but does not prosper until the 14th century. Daniel Munoz-Garrido discusses the Spanish synagogue founded by Samuel ha-Levi Abulafia.

Portuguese Synagogue (03:30)

Following their expulsion from Spain, many Sephardic Jews settle in Amsterdam. The city’s Jewish community cannot join guilds and holds a competition to design the synagogue; Elias Bouman wins.

Ghetto Nuovo (05:19)

The Doge of Venice grants Jews permission to permanently settle in 1516. They build several temples: Scuola Tedesca is the oldest and Scuola Italiana the most modest. Donatella Calabi discusses the structures and the Venetian ghetto.

Ghetto Vecchio (03:22)

Venice's Jews are allotted another parcel of land 25 years after the creation of Ghetto Nuovo. Jews from the Ottoman Empire establish the Scuola Levantina and the Scuola Spagnola.

Dohany Synagogue (06:25)

A Jewish tombstone that dates back to the 3rd century is rediscovered in Budapest in the 19th century. Ashkenazi Jews build the synagogue as they gain a foothold into the city’s finance, politics, and culture.

Philadelphia's "House of Peace" (07:03)

The American Jewish community becomes the largest in the world in the 20th century. Architect Frank Lloyd Wright collaborates with Rabbi Mortimer Cohen to design Beth Sholom Synagogue.

Credits: Synagogues: Absence and Presence (00:44)

Credits: Synagogues: Absence and Presence

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Synagogues: Absence and Presence

Part of the Series : Sacred Spaces
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The story of Jewish synagogues is a story of absence and presence. Similarly to its people, synagogues are examples of survival despite conflict and persecution, such as the synagogues of Cordoba, Toledo, and Budapest. Others are symbols of the strength and pride, such as the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam or the Beth Sholom Synagogue in the United States, the only synagogue ever designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Length: 53 minutes

Item#: BVL196458

ISBN: 978-1-64867-525-6

Copyright date: ©2018

Closed Captioned

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