October 23, 2018

The Secular Architecture of Jewish Holy Spaces

“In contrast to Christianity, Judaism is not perceived as having inspired beautiful buildings; Jewish religious structures are more often regarded as merely functional.

But the exhibition “Concrete Folklore,” at the Architects House Gallery in Jaffa, displays synagogues built in Israel, mainly in the 1960s and ‘70s, that reveal an aesthetic side of Judaism. They may have aged somewhat, especially their interiors, but these synagogues still stand out as prominent landmarks in the history of Israeli architecture.

Architect Naomi Simhony is guest curator of the exhibition, in collaboration with Dana Gordon, curator of the gallery itself. A doctoral student whose research deals with synagogues in Israel’s early years, Simhony says she approached the subject as a secular person looking at how architecture has given physical shape to the Jewish faith. “Unlike Christianity, Judaism doesn’t give architectural guidelines. It doesn’t define the exteriors,” she says. “There is a list of things that must be placed inside, like benches and the ark. When non-observant Jews see the list – and most of the synagogue architects represented in the exhibition were secular – the list becomes an adventure.””

Read more

JJ Best Of The Web

"Now I’m starting to wonder how I can go at all. And I’m also wondering why more Muslims don’t question the powers that control our most sacred site—and how the Saudis have already twisted it to their own political and financial ends."

"It's going to be a letdown. Not only is it likely that the final report will not reveal that the president has been a KGB agent since the late '80s, as at least one mainstream liberal columnist fantasized."

"The JFNA GA may say they want to talk, but there are some parts of Israel which have the feeling that this American Jewish organization is not really interested in hearing what they have to say."

“What responsibility do you think young, famous women have today to be activists?” I asked Bateman. “Are you tempted to leverage your fame for political reasons?”

"For nearly 40 years, the GOP has relied on cutting taxes as an easy way to win votes, even when their plans—like the most recent package—benefit only the rich. "

"On its face, voting by phone makes sense. Nearly ninety-five per cent of American adults own mobile phones, and rely on them for all sorts of secure transactions."

"Allegations of sexual harassment brought down Bill Gothard, a leading figure of the Christian right. But his fall also revealed the diminished influence of fundamentalism in the Trump era."

"Literature — the top-shelf, award-winning stuff — is positively ectoplasmic these days, crawling with hauntings, haints and wraiths of every stripe and disposition."

"Kids have a habit of imitating their parents’ criminal behavior. It’s no wonder, then, that by one measure, 10 percent of families account for two-thirds of criminals."

"SFAH doesn’t make an argument for local or slow food per se, but that’s what we see. The dishes are simple, with few ingredients, made traditionally and with pleasure."

We think of archeological finds as being clues to the ancient past. In a new book from Ulrike Sommer, archeology's effects on present-day national narratives are excavated.

"That the highest God speaks for six days and then has to rest from fatigue at the seventh is a patent absurdity: ‘It is not fitting for the first God to be tired or to work with his hands or to give orders,’ he writes."