Los Angeles Times - Teena Apeles
The Wilshire Boulevard Temple, which opened in 1929 and was named Temple
B’nai B’rith until 1937, is one of those buildings you can’t miss thanks to the size
of its Byzantine-style dome, 135 feet in diameter and more than 100 feet high.
Home to the oldest Jewish congregation in Los Angeles, founded in 1862, the
sanctuary was designed by A.M. Edelman. The inner dome consists of large
co!ered plaster octagons with gilded molding; at its apex is a blue-painted,
illuminated oculus encircled with a Hebrew prayer in gold that translates to “Hear
O Israel, the Lord Our God, the Lord Is One.”
Part of the beauty of seeing it for the first time is the transition from the dark
corridor around the sanctuary, which serves as a bu!er against the sounds of
Wilshire Boulevard and outside light, to the grand reveal. Perhaps it was one of
the many theater design elements requested by Rabbi Edgar F. Magnin, who led
the congregation for 69 years and counted many legendary Hollywood producers
among his congregants and friends.
From 2011 to 2013, the building underwent a major restoration. One of the more
entertaining stories I learned about what prompted it involved members gathered
in the sanctuary who were startled to find it snowing inside. (It was actually
flaking paint from the dome.) “The restoration decision was largely driven by the
fundamental decision to honor the congregation’s place in the city of L.A.
historically and geographically,” says Don Levy, the temple’s director of
communications. The false snowfall “demonstrated the absolute need of repairs.
... From there, we embarked on a decade of restoration and redevelopment of the
entire block.” Temple leadership sought out the most skilled artisans and
architects — namely, Brenda Levin, the lead project architect, who oversaw the
restoration of other historic buildings on this list — and dug into the temple’s
photo archives to maintain the integrity of the original design.
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