Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Former Beth-El

From this view, the former Temple Beth-El at Vine and Arch looks more Italianate than from the outside. This is the main entry from the garden, formerly the playground and occasional campground of Camp Kietov, where my kids absorbed the songbook before graduating to Camp Unalayee. The temple's renovation is pretty clever, stuffing a lot of program (it's now the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology) into the original envelope. To its credit, the school kept the large, west-facing windows and the overall feel of a building that owes a debt to the early modern architect Erich Mendelsohn, who lived and practiced in San Francisco during and after World War II. Best known for the expressionist Einstein Tower in Potsdam, he was also a sought-after designer of department stores until the Nazis arrived. Despite his fame, he struggled to get work here. Since Beth-El moved to Spruce Street, my sense of the Jewish liturgical year has slipped away. I miss the kids, but the temple's new site is a better place for them.

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