While there are many mid-century modern houses of worship that may have Mod Betty do a double-take when driving by, nothing makes her slam the brakes on like the sight of the Beth Sholom Synagogue in Elkins Park.
In addition to being one of the most unusual edifices in the Philadelphia area, it is the only synagogue designed by the famous American architect Frank Lloyd Wright. And lucky for all of us, you don't have to just ogle it from the outside, as guided tours of this national landmark are offered by the Beth Sholom Synagogue Preservation Foundation.
When you tour this triangular structure you will learn the history of the congregation, and how they came to move to Elkins Park in 1951. And how in 1953 Rabbi Mortimer J. Cohen wrote to FLW (now in his mid-80s) and inspired him to accept the commission to create this unique house of worship, which took years and years to be completed. (The building was finally completed and dedicated in 1959) Sadly, Mr. Wright passed away a few months prior and never saw the structure fully completed.
Mod Betty could not resist a "selfie" with the iconic FLLW red tile:
Nothing beats experiencing this space first-hand, to get a feel for what both the rabbi and the architect were striving to accomplish with each design. To discover the thought that was put into every detail, shape, and color. Even the materials chosen to construct this modern masterpiece were selected specifically to add to the spiritual experience -seeing it glowing from within when approaching from the outside at night, to entering into sunlight filled interior during the day.
While you may not think of yourself as a fan of modern architecture, you may reconsider this once you tour this building. And if not, at least you’ll have a better understanding of how and why this grand building came to be!