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Historical Synagogues of Los Angeles

Wilshire Temple in 1873 at 2nd and Fort Street (Broadway)

Historic Synagogues of Los Angeles

Congregation B’nai B’rith (later known as Wilshire Blvd. Temple) was organized on July 13, 1862. The Congregation’s first synagogue site on S. Fort Street (now Broadway) between 2nd and 3rd, is pictured above.  This was the first Jewish building in Los Angeles. The cornerstone was laid on August 18, 1872.

“The building itself was of Gothic architecture. In front were two massive buttresses surmounted by ornamental stone, with carved spires. A five-pointed star set in a circle fronted the building…The interior was seventy feet long, forty feet wide, and thirty feet high, and the sanctuary seated 365 persons.”

In 1894 the building was sold due to its “cracked walls and antiquated appearance in a busy commercial street, [that] was not conducive to worship.” [Destroyed]

 

In 1896 Congregation B’nai B’rith built a larger synagogue at 9th and Hope. The cornerstone was laid on March 15, 1896 and it was dedicated on September 5.  The architect was Abraham M. Edelman, son of its long-time rabbi.

“The synagogue, which was long regarded as the finest church edifice in Los Angeles, was of red brick with twin towers and pomegranate domes, characteristic of ‘mosaic’ architecture.” The sanctuary seated 600. “The floor was carpeted in deep red, the pews were plush-cushioned, and the chandelier, containing sixty bulbs, was the largest in the city. Stained glass windows were presented by H.W. Hellman, Harris Newmark, Kaspare Cohn, and Mrs. J.P. Newmark.”

(Descriptions from Vorspan and Gartner, History of the Jews of Los Angeles, 1970) B’nai B’rith Congregation officially joined the Reform movement around 1900. [Destroyed] Photo in Western States Jewish History Quarterly.

 

The third synagogue of the B’nai B’rith Congregation was built between 1922 and 1929 at the NE corner of Hobart and Wilshire, designed by Abraham A. Edelman, S. Tilden Norton and David C. Allison, and the name changed to Wilshire Blvd. Temple.

“The mystery and opulence of the eastern Mediterranean is suggested in this luxurious Byzantine-inspired edifice. Black marble, inlaid gold, mosaics and rare woods are used throughout the interior. Hugo Ballin’s murals add the final touch of richness to the interior space.” (A Guide to Architecture in Los Angeles, David Gebhard and Robert Winter, 1977) Photo in LAPL collection.

 

Congregation Beth Israel was formed in 1899 by the merger of three congregations and is the oldest Orthodox congregation. Its synagogue at 227 Olive Street was dedicated on April 13, 1902, and it was used until 1940. It was a large building with twin towers with domes at the tops, also called the Olive Street Shul. The building was located on Bunker Hill, an area that was redeveloped in the 1960s. Photo taken in 1937 in LAPL collection, California Room and shown in Western States Jewish History Quarterly journal volume 7, number 4.

Congregation Talmud Torah was established partly due to a need in the community for a Hebrew School close to the growing population east of downtown.  In 1904 a house at 114 Rose Street was used as a synagogue.  After 1910, with the Jewish population moving to Boyle Heights, property on Breed Street was purchased.  The Beth Hamedrash was built there in 1915; this building still stands today at the rear of the property. The large Breed Street Shul was erected at this site at 247 Breed Street beginning in 1920, and dedicated in 1923. This was once the largest Orthodox congregation west of Chicago. The Jewish Historical Society of Southern California is raising money to renovate the building so that it can be used to serve the community. Photo of Rose St. site taken in 1917 in LAPL archives, part of SPNB collection. Photos of Breed St. Shul in LAPL collection, current photos in L.A. Times article “Aging Shul to be Revived” January 20, 2003.

Anshei Sephard Congregation was established by immigrants from Romania and used a house on Banning Street.  Later it was known as the Custer Street Synagogue, and eventually merged with the Olive Street Synagogue.

Agudath Achim Congregation was incorporated in 1908 at 21st and Central. It established a Chevra Kadisha (burial society) and a cemetery on Downey Road in East Los Angeles. In 1936 it moved to 2521 West View Street.

 

Sinai Synagogue arose out a conflict between Orthodox Jews, and broke away from Beth Israel (Olive Street Shul) around 1906.  It was the first Conservative congregation. They used facilities at 521 West Pico, then purchased a lot at Valencia and 12th in the Pico Union area, and dedicated a new synagogue there on February 5, 1909. “The new temple had weathered oak furnishings and tinting in blending shades in brown and blue, with splendid art glass and windows and magnificent pipe organ.” (Vorspan & Gartner) A large Star of David still exists in a window and above the interior chandelier.

Now the Welsh Presbyterian Church. Photo courtesy Sonia Hoffman.

 

 

Sinai Temple 1909-1925

12th and Valencia now the Welsh Presbyterian Church

 

Sinai Congregation moved to a site at 405 S. New Hampshire in 1926.  This very large synagogue was designed by S. Tilden Norton. “A mixture of eastern Mediterranean areas – Byzantine, Moorish plus other odds and ends. A dome dominates the interior and exterior, and hand-cut bricks of various colors create a textured busy facade.” (A Guide to Architecture in Los Angeles)

Now the Korean Philadelphia Presbyterian Church. Photo courtesy Sonia Hoffman.

Sinai Temple’s third and current synagogue is at 10400 Wilshire Blvd. in Westwood. Website: www.sinaitemple.org

B’nai Amunah Congregation established a synagogue in 1914 at Broadway and 40th, then moved in 1921 to 4200 S. Grand Avenue.

Congregation Tifereth Israel held services in homes, halls and theaters, but finally dedicated their synagogue at the NW corner of Santa Barbara and La Salle Avenues in 1932. (Photo in Sinai Yearbook 1946 in JGSLA collection, Los Angeles Family History Center). The Sephardic community was made up of immigrants mainly from the Island of Rhodes, Asia Minor, Salonica, Constantinople, Smyrna, Morocco and the Balkans.

Later the congregation moved to 10500 Wilshire Blvd. Website: www.sephardictemple.org

Temple Emanuel was organized in 1919 as the second Reform congregation in Los Angeles, but with a desire to adhere to “historic Judaism,” modeled on the style of the Free Synagogue founded by Rabbi Stephen S. Wise in New York. After meeting at first at the Wilshire Masonic Hall, a synagogue was dedicated on Manhattan Place near Wilshire Blvd. in 1924. Despite growing rapidly for a few years, due to the Depression and the new Wilshire Blvd. Temple opening nearby, the synagogue was closed, and the building was occupied by Christ Church. However, the congregation was revived in 1939 and a synagogue was built at 8844 Wilshire Blvd.

Beth David, or the Cornwell Synagogue, was founded in 1918. Services were held on Brooklyn Avenue at the beginning; the temple was built in 1923 at 336 Cornwell Avenue in Boyle Heights.

B’nai Jacob, 2833 Fairmont Street in Boyle Heights.  Dedicated August 14, 1927, with a meeting hall adjacent to the synagogue. Now used as a church. Photo courtesy Jeff Bock (See Tour of Boyle Heights with Hershey Eisenberg, Roots-Key web edition Summer/Fall 2003.

Hollywood Temple Beth El, founded in 1920, held services at a bungalow at 1414 North Wilton Place. In 1922 a synagogue was built at 1508 North Wilton Place. A later site was 1317 Crescent Heights Blvd

B’nai Zion Congregation met in rented stores in City Terrace and by 1928 had sufficient members to erect a synagogue. However, the group was split in two factions, the B’nai Zion group and the Menorah Center group. The B’nai Zion group built a synagogue at 3364 City Terrace Drive, though they had financial difficulties, especially during the Depression, but became very active and paid off their mortgage in 1935.

Congregation Tifereth Jacob began in 1922 with fifty families, rented space at first, and in 1925 purchased a building at the corner of 59th Street and Brentwood in the southern part of the city. After two years, the old building was replaced by a new and larger one, which served 1500 families.

Beth Jacob West Adams Congregation was organized in 1925 at a meeting in a house at 5175 West Adams Blvd. under the name “West Adams Hebrew congregation.” Services were held at 4759 West Adams. The name was changed in 1928 and a building was erected at the SE corner of West Adams and Hillcrest. By 1931, it was necessary to enlarge the synagogue to seat 800 people.

Congregation Mogen David was founded in 1925 in the Grammercy Place neighborhood. They used private homes until the women’s auxiliary raised the funds to purchase a site for a synagogue at 1518 Grammercy Place, which opened in 1933.

Temple Israel, the third Reform congregation, was founded in 1926 by four men from Temple Beth El who wanted to create a more modern temple. Services were held in the old Susue Haijakawa mansion at Franklin and Argyle Avenue.  In 1929 they moved to 1740 Ivar Avenue, and in 1945 they acquired a site for a new temple at Hollywood and Fuller. The temple became very progressive, and Rabbi Nussbaum created the Inter-Faith Forum in 1943 with the Hollywood area churches to foster better relationships. The website is www.tioh.org

Etz Jacob Congregation opened at 7659 Beverly Blvd. in 1932 under the name “Congregation Share Torah.” Jacob Tannenbaum led a group in organizing a Talmud Torah in the same year, and the congregation was named in his honor. In 1946 they joined with the oldest Orthodox congregation, Beth Israel, which sold its Olive Street synagogue to build a new temple and educational center on Beverly Blvd.

B’nai Moshe Congregation, 2744 Wabash Avenue in Boyle Heights

University Synagogue was organized in 1943 with services conducted by one of the members at 574 Hilgard Avenue near UCLA.  The present site of the Reform congregation’s large synagogue is 11960 Sunset Blvd. Website: www.unisyn.org

Addresses and websites

Temples in the City Directory of 1930

* Former sites - no longer in existence.

Congregation Talmud Torah 114 Rose Street *

Congregation Talmud Torah (Breed Street Shul) 247 N. Breed St.

Cornwall St. Shul 336 N. Cornwell St.

B'nai Jacob 2833 Fairmont St.

Congregation B'nai B'rith (Wilshire Blvd. Temple) 214 S. Broadway * (pictured above)

Congregation B'nai B'rith 9th and Hope Sts. *

Sinai Temple 12th  and Valencia Sts.

Sinai Temple (C); 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 474-1518; www.sinaitemple.org .

Hollywood Temple Beth El 1414 N. Wilton Pl.

Hollywood Temple Beth El 1317 N. Crescent Heights Blvd.

Congregation Etz Jacob (O); 7659 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 938-2619.

Agudath Achim 21st and Central

Beth Jacob 4678 W. Adams Blvd.

Beth Jacob Congregation (O); 9030 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills; (310) 278-1911; www.bethjacob.org .

Rodel Sholem Jefferson Blvd and Cimmaron St.

Sephardic Temple Tefereth Israel 1551 W. Santa Barbara Ave.

Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel (S/C); 10500 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 475-7311; www.sephardictemple.org .

Sephardic Hebrew Center 55th  and Hoover Sts.

Sephardic Jewish Center (S/O); PMB No. 2757, Beverly Hills 90213; (310) 275-1293.

Temple Israel of Hollywood (R); 7300 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles; (323) 876-8330; www.tioh.org .

Temple Beth Am (C); 1039 S. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 652-7353; www.tbala.org .

For questions about Temple Beth Am, contact Executive Director Sheryl Goldman at Sgoldman@tbala.org.

Mogen David 1518 Gramercy Pl.

Congregation Mogen David (O); 9717 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles;(310) 556-5609.

University Synagogue (R); 11960 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles; (310) 472-1255; www.unisyn.org .

Stephen S. Wise Temple (R); 15500 Stephen S. Wise Drive, Los Angeles; (310) 476-8561; www.sswt.org

Mishkon Tefilo 206 Main St.

Adat Ari El 5540 Laurel Canyon Blvd.

Temple Beth Hillel 12326 Riverside Dr.

Shaarey Zedek Congregation (O); 12800 Chandler Blvd., Valley Village; (818) 763-0560; www.valleyshul.com .

Wilshire Boulevard Temple — Irmas Campus (R); 1161 W. Olympic Blvd.; (213) 388-2401; www.wilshireboulevardtemple.org . 3663 Wilshire Boulevard Los Angeles, CA  90010-2798
213-388-2401 Stephen Breuer Executive Director

 

Congregations in Greater L.A.

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