Temple B’nai David (San Francisco)


When I lived in the Mission District in San Francisco in the 1990s, I made a habit on my walks around the neighborhood to pass by this lovely synagogue on 19th Street. I always wondered about the place.

All I knew at the time was that the synagogue had long ago been converted into residential apartments. You can read more about Temple B’nai David here. It turns out that it was the first (?) orthodox shul built by immigrants from East Europe in San Francisco, a predominantly German-Jewish Reform town. You can read more about the shul here.

Originally located near 16th and Mission streets, they built this unassuming temple here after the 1906 fire. Stucco and tile over a wood frame, the building typifies what has been called ‘recessive protective architecture’ In other words, it was designed to not call attention to itself, bespeaking an attitude born of centuries of persecution.

It’s hard to see how the building does not call attention to itself except perhaps that it was not built for height. As such, it blends into the neighborhood. Regular services dwindled already in 1960. The congregation shut its doors in 1978 and was sold off in 1981. The white stucco with blue tile and golden decorative elements are easy on the eye.



About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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2 Responses to Temple B’nai David (San Francisco)

  1. dmf says:

    something in all that perhaps about assimilation.


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