Monday, March 11, 2013

Photos of the Former B’Nai Israel Synagogue, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri

NEXT DOOR TO the old Saint Vincent de Paul Church, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, is the former B’Nai Israel Orthodox synagogue, constructed in 1937, and made in a Spanish Colonial Revival style with Moorish elements.

B'Nai Israel synagogue, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, USA

This building was designed by the Saint Louis architect Thomas P. Barnett Jr. who also designed other buildings in Cape Girardeau: he came from a prominent family of architects, his father having designed the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. Reportedly, this synagogue has not been altered since its construction, and the interior remains intact. You can read its nomination for the National Register of Historical Places here.

B'Nai Israel synagogue, in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, USA - gate with Stars of David

While we might consider such a style of architecture to be more Islamic than Jewish, understand that the history and art of Spain, which inspired this building, is complex and non-intuitive to those of us more familiar with northern European styles. The New Liturgical Movement tells us of a similarly-decorated ancient Catholic church, in the article Mozarabic Potentialities for Contemporary Church Architecture? This style is largely derived from the arts of the late Roman and Byzantine Empires, and in turn, it inspired the Gothic.

The synagogue closed because the congregation was unable to maintain a quorum for licit liturgies; this in turn was due to the changing economy (most congregants owned their own businesses, but were unable to compete with the suburban malls), and most critically, because of the inability of the youth to find suitable spouses in the region. You can read about its history here.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing this story about a beautiful piece of history. I lived in Cape for a few years and would ride my bike to the synagogue and sit on the steps when I needed to feel connected. I even have a piece of tile from the old roof that I've carried to my new home in Austin TX. I worked for Mr Wyman at a restaurant he owned, and he even offered to show me the inside although it never materialized. This past spring while visiting friends in Cape after being away for several years, I asked my partner to drive by so that I could snap a few photos. I was shocked and saddened to find that it had been usurped by a non-denominational Christian group of some sort. In the words of their teacher:Casting pearls before swine.