Front view of the Temple
National Register photograph by Yen Tang
The Temple has served as a center for Atlanta's Jewish cultural,
educational and social activities since its construction in 1931.
It is the home of the city's oldest Jewish congregation--the Hebrew
Benevolent Society, established in 1860 to serve the needs of the
local German-Jewish immigrants. Operating from various rented rooms
and halls, the congregation built its first permanent synagogue
in 1875 in downtown Atlanta. Twice, first in 1902 and again in 1930,
overcrowded facilities prompted the Reform Judaism congregation
to build a new home. At the time of its construction, the current
Temple was one of only a few synagogues in the state, which in 1926
had only 22 Jewish congregations and 13 synagogues. During the era
of the Civil Rights struggle in the South, the Temple's rabbi, Jacob
Rothschild, became an outspoken supporter of equality for all of
Atlanta's citizens. On October 12, 1958, white supremacists bombed
the northern side of the Temple in response to the rabbi's support
of the Civil Rights movement. Although arrests were made, no one
was ever convicted of the bombing. While Rabbi Rothschild's commitment
to social justice angered some, many more were outraged at the bombing.
An outpouring of support came from around the world to help reconstruct
the damaged portions of the Temple.
The Temple is a fine example of a classically inspired religious
building and the design is particularly noteworthy for its elaborate
interior decorative scheme worked out by the architect in consultation
with the Temple's rabbi to combine classical motifs with Jewish
iconography. It was designed by Philip T. Shutze, an important early
20th-century Atlanta architect. Shutze was considered a master of
classically inspired design and was also responsible for Swan
House and the Academy of Medicine. The
well-proportioned building features a pedimented portico, Ionic
columns, drum dome and vaulted and domed sanctuary. Its finishing
details include terrazzo floors, black marbleized-wood columns and
gilded woodwork. Of particular note is the intricate plaster relief
work on the interior of the sanctuary's frieze, cornice, vaults
and dome. The focal point of the central altar area is the Ark--made
of carved gilded wood. Above this hangs one of four red globes,
the Eternal Light, brought from the first temple of the congregation
built in 1875. This globe is suspended from a gilded eagle on the
ceiling that represents the Great Seal of the United States and
symbolizes Jewish freedom in America.
The Temple is located at 1589 Peachtree St. in north Atlanta.
It is open to the public during normal worship services. Call 404-873-1731
or visit www.the-temple.org
for more information.