There may be no more beautiful, spiritual or majestic worship space anywhere than the Magnin Sanctuary, the crown jewel of Wilshire Boulevard Temple’s Koreatown campus, named for Rabbi Edgar F. Magnin, who served the congregation for nearly 70 years.
Byzantine Romanesque in design, the sanctuary reflects a glory well beyond the sum of its parts — a soaring dome inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, capped by an inscriptions of the Sh’ma; murals surrounding the interior that tell the story of the Jews from Abraham through discovery of the New World, stained-glass windows depicting symbols the Twelve Tribes and a 4,100-pipe Kimball organ.
The history of the sanctuary is as notable as the elements that contribute to its beauty.
Conceived by Rabbi Magnin and completed in 1929, it was built with the support of temple members who were the city’s leading bankers, merchants, politicians, land developers, and movie studio moglus, including the early moguls of the film industry, all of them Temple members — Irving Thalberg, Carl Laemmle, Louis B. Mayer, Sol Lesser, and the Warner brothers.
The murals were the vision of Hugo Ballin, a classically-trained artist and, at the time, art director in the movie industry. He spent a year designing and painting them in dazzling colors and scenes, fulfilling a vision of Rabbi Magnin that the murals would offer visual stimulation to a diverse congregation of members from a long list of countries. Rabbi Magnin predicted the murals would remain “a joy forever.”
The joy of seeing the murals, as well as the stained glass windows, was further enhanced in 2011, when the Temple began a two-year restoration project to rehabilitate, clean, and upgrade the sanctuary, inside and out. The renovation included installing air conditioning for the first time and lowering the bimah to create a more intimate space connecting clergy and congregants.
The Sanctuary and Murals
But it was the murals, the dome, and glass windows, that were the chief artistic beneficiaries. Years of dust and grime were removed, and the gilding was restored to its original luster. The result was a brilliance unseen for decades as faded colors were revived, enabling small details to shine like jewels.
At the dedication of the renovated building, Senior Rabbi Steve Leder put the project in its proper historical perspective.
“If history records that we have helped the next generation of American Jews approach the synagogue with a deeper sense of dignity and respect, we will have served God and the Torah well,” he said. “Like our ancestors who imagined and built it for us, we have done this not for ourselves but for the generations yet unborn. That is the essence of being a Jew and the essence of what it means to be truly great.”
To learn more about the Murals, please see a complete curriculum available free of charge.
Tour Reservation Request Form
Guided tours of the Sanctuary can be arranged through the request form below or by contacting the Temple’s tour department at (213) 835-2195 or firstname.lastname@example.org.