I remember seeing its terracotta-tiled dome from Twin Peaks in 1985, the year I was graduated with honors from my university. The trip to San Francisco was a gift from my late parents.
Without GPS and Google maps, I made my way through a meandering path of taking wrong turns, to eventually see the soaring Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco.
Fresh from completing my emphasis phase in college titled The Study of Genocide, and having been taught by a Survivor, whose story of being saved by a family of the Righteous, tears filled my eyes with wonder.
Despite our country's issues with prejudice, anti-Semitism and racism, I was proud, as an American, that a beautiful Jewish Temple, which inspires awe, could be built and supported by what must be a large and dedicated congregation.
Years later, after moving to Silicon Valley from the rugged and remote North Coast of California where I lived for 40 years, one of my first visits was this beautiful Temple to show my lovely wife Kathleen. I was as awe-struck then as I was in 1985 and as I am now.
And, in writing about in a few years ago, I learned a lot about Congregation Emanu-El, which welcomes anyone. It is part of Big Tent Judaism and Interfaith Families.
Congregation Temple Emanu-El has an excellent Website, and it is from the information provided that I will quote because I cannot say it any better.
"When intrepid Jews journeyed around the Horn or overland in 1848 as part of the migration west, little did they imagine that they would be helping to found one of the most dynamic Jewish communities in America. San Francisco — the city that sparked the imagination of a nation — is the home of Northern California’s landmark temple, Congregation Emanu-El. Officially established in 1850, our congregation has over 2,100 households, many of whom have been involved with the congregation since its founding. We are the oldest congregation west of the Mississippi.
"Dedicated in April 1926, the magnificent building at Lake Street and Arguello Boulevard is the third site of this congregation. Designed primarily by Arthur Brown, Jr. (designer of the War Memorial Opera House, the Hoover Library at Stanford and, with two others, the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge), the building was influenced by the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. From the exterior of the dome (150 feet) to the four-manual Skinner organ to the nine-foot high jewel box which is the Ark itself, the Main Sanctuary is a place of dignity, power and peace. In 1927, the American Institute of Architects selected Temple Emanu-El as the finest piece of architecture in Northern California. The Awards Committee honored it as, 'a glorious building… beautifully planned and modeled… realizing to the highest degree the expression of its religious character.'
"It is not only our buildings that stand as a beacon of Reform Judaism in our community. Our lay leaders, clergy, and members have always been leaders in our community’s religious, civic, business, and social life as well. Our congregation’s commitment to helping the secular community began as far back as 1849–1850. The Eureka Benevolent Society, which in a few years became the largest Jewish organization in the West (Jewish Family and Children’s Services), was formed by many who became active at Temple Emanu-El. The first two presidents of Emanu-El were local officeholders and Jews were part of California State government, serving in the State Assembly, on the State Supreme Court, and in other key positions.
"In 1859, Emanu-El congregants raised nearly $3700 on behalf of persecuted Moroccan Jews. This set a precedent for congregational involvement in support of Jews around the world that is continued to this day. Commitment to our local community is evidenced through our renewed mission statement and is exemplified by our members, our community service projects, and our community partnership projects funded through the Emanu-El Community Service Fund."
(Please note that these photos were taken as I was experimenting with digital cameras. I used a consumer-grade DSLR and not my pro SLR gear. I have made the switch to pro DSLR but have not yet been back to the Temple. When I return, I will feature much better photos. I was once invited to tour it, and I hope to see the inside of this beautiful and iconic Temple that is a treasure of San Francisco, California, the United States and the world.)
Category:Architecture and Structures
Keywords:Congregation Emanu-El, Glenn Franco Simmons, San Francisco, Synagogue, Temple, Temple Emanu-El