Thursday August 3, 2006

South Beach synagogues

935 Euclid

I lived at 936 Pennsylvania Ave when the Synagogue at 935 Euclid was being rebuilt; I could see their stained glass star-of-David window from my window on the alley standing at the sink in my kitchen. I have a big photo of the building, gutted and ready to be rebuilt as luxury condos, hanging in my present apartment (a couple of blocks down on Euclid).[1] Since then all the condos have been sold; probably for close to half a million each (wild guess—anyone know for sure?).

Another synagogue, on Washington and 3rd, became the beautiful Jewish Museum in the 1980’s (?), but I was under the impression that the synagogue a couple of blocks down the street from my new apartment was still functioning. Boy was I wrong. Unbeknownst to me (and so done much more subtly then the 936 job), it has been converted into one huge contemporary residence. I’m going to go ahead and declare this “creepy.” Who would want to live there? Well, we’ll see: it’s selling for 17 million. The one thing I think I like about this renovation is that they left the exterior intact.

So as far as I know the only functioning synagogues on the Beach are on Alton now. What we have, of course, is the Jewish population moving away, mostly to Broward. It makes sense that the synagogues in residential neighborhoods would be converted to residences, and the ones along the bigger arteries remain as is. Unfortunately, the ones being renovated were more architecturally interesting, so there’s a severe loss of history here. So it goes. (via Rick and thanks NicFitKid, in Rick’s comments, for additional info)

[1] That’s my attempt to rephotograph it through the frame glass, and so the crappy quality of the picture.

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  1. Manola Blablablanik    Thu Aug 3, 10:55 AM #  

    Creepy is the perfect word!

    I have a feeling that The Temple House will probably be brought by a company a serve as a corporate residence or something along those lines … I just wonder who was the braindump behind this: wouldn’t it have made more sense to build apartments? Oh and can you imagine the acoustics in that place? Like, you could yodel when calling the maid. Whatever …

    None of the Jewish folk are moving from my hood. Up here it’s still pretty intact. In fact, they’re building a new addition to one of the synagogues/schools. Maybe some of the SoBe folk have migrated here too.

  2. kingofrance    Thu Aug 3, 11:26 AM #  

    hey! I lived in the Milfred a couple of years ago. I had to move because I was eating too much Pizza Rustica. Well, that, and the crackheads in the building nextdoor.

  3. Big Pinz    Thu Aug 3, 11:32 AM #  

    I moved out of South Beach about three years ago, but I think there are still a bunch of functioning synagogues there. I’m terrible with names, but there’s one that actually enjoyed a bit of renaissance in recent years, located at Washington and 17th or so… there are also two, I think, further west on 17th or 18th… one is the Cuban-Hebrew synagogue.

  4. Lissette    Thu Aug 3, 01:04 PM #  

    The one on 17th and Washington is the Temple Emanu-El, and it is a very big temple, and has been for years! It is incredibly sad what’s going on with all the temples around the Beach with all the history that they all had, but what can you do when that community is moving on? The best you can do is preserve them as much as you can and try to adapt them to the current community structure.

  5. alesh    Thu Aug 3, 02:05 PM #  

    Yeah, the one at 17th and Washington is amazing. I guess I wasn’t thinking that far north . . . I have a tendency to think of South Beach as going from 5th Street to Lincoln Rd—wrong, I know!

    Somehow I can’t imagine that synagogue ever closing; it seems like it would be worth a drive to go there.

  6. Tere    Thu Aug 3, 03:43 PM #  

    Sorry to go slightly OT, but this discussion makes me think of a former synagogue on SW 87 Ave and 16 St. It used to be copper but is now white and is shaped like a huge dome. At some point many years ago, it stopped functioning as a synagogue and in due time reopened as a baptist church, which it still is.

    We were driving by a couple of weeks ago, and we were joking/really wondering about whether baptists felt weird about using what used to be a Jewish temple as their place of worship, when I noticed something that really amused me: they never changed out the stained glass windows, which happen to have these beautiful Stars of David right in the middle of each one.

    Has no one at the church noticed??

  7. circuitmouse    Thu Aug 3, 05:13 PM #  

    I’d overheard some yentas a few years back muttering about how hard it was to get a minyan at their temple, but I didn’t think it was going to be so widespread so soon.

    How weird is it that efforts are underway to rebuld and restore synagogues across Eastern Europe destroyed by the Nazis (most as nothing more than museums and memorials to the communities they once served) as developers are razing the history of SoFla’s pioneer communities?

    Since none of my family is on the Beach now, I have no say, but how is it that no one thought of turning it into some sort of community center or non-profit instead of ever-more high-end condos?

    May the ghost of Barbara Capitman screw with the developers and real estate agents…

  8. alesh    Fri Aug 4, 07:50 AM #  

    Tere~ I’d like to think they’ve noticed, and they’re ok with it – sort of accepting the religious history of their building, maybe even feeding off that energy a little bit, in sort of a “many paths, one destination” sort of way.

    circuitmouse~ I’m sure they thought about it, but there’s only so many of those sort of uses for those buildings. And I suppose at the end of the day, the owners sold to the highest bidder. And in the case of 1415 Euclid, it’s already across the street from a community (senior?) center, and around the corner from a huge elementary school.

    But still a shame, though.

  9. circuitmouse    Fri Aug 4, 05:24 PM #  

    I thought there was some truncated attempt for more non-commercial space on the Beach a while back… and Miami Beach isn’t getting any bigger (until they buy some more sand from Georgia, that is).

    Oh, and there’s a Spanish evangelist church in an old temple in Los Angeles I saw once on a tour of Jewish LA. Quite a number of synagogues across the country have been converted to other uses. More chilling are the still extant synagogues in the Baltic states, abandoned or used as barns and such.

    That was a great photograph, by the way. It made me go through Berenice Abbott’s “Changing New York” for the gazillionth time. Maybe I’ll blow the dust off of the bookshelf and look for my copy of “The Billion Dollar Sandbar.” It’s time for a new millenium photo-documentary of the lost (or endangered) landmarks of the Beach. And I’d say that the photograph above is anything BUT crappy. Better than I could do, certainly.

  10. Onajide    Sat Aug 5, 01:01 PM #  

    That US$17 mil. place had an event last year just before or, at the time of, Art Miami put on by LegalArt. Yes, it’s a residence but, it seemed like a yoga temple with lots of cushion seating, huge kitchen and open areas for non-residents. Edouard Duval-CarriĆ© and Bernice Steinbaum were the main speakers with Ms. Steinbaum sort of interviewing Duval-CarriĆ© and, ending with questions fielded from the limited size audience.

  11. cohen    Sat Aug 5, 08:31 PM #  

    bro i ,love that picture

  12. oldswish    Sun Aug 6, 11:40 AM #  

    An even better trend was back in the 80’s when they were taking south beach synagogues and turning them into clubs…the van-something-or-other on Washington, north of 16th and there was one that is now a store down by Urban Outfitters. My all time favorite was the one on Lincoln Road that was sold to the Jehovah
    Witnesses for $175,000 back in ‘91. What an incredible space it was. The Jehovah’s sold it to Michael Caine 3 years later for 1,5 million. He made it into touch. Renovations over the years have stripped it of the beauty it once was.

  13. I was there    Tue Aug 8, 07:01 AM #  

    It was Van Dome, and I lived on Washington and Espanola Way during this transformation.

    Next to Van Dome was a yeshiva type study hall which I walked into one day as it was being gutted everything was still in place as if everyone suddenly vanished….the roof had caved in years earlier and eveything was wet, moldly and in a profound state of decay….I managed to remove some picutes from the wall and donated them to the Jewish Museum South of 5th Street. They seem oblivious and uninterested in what was happening a few block away.

    It is amazing that 90% of the small synagogues have vanished….nobody, to my knowledge has documented this transformation.

    oy vey!

  14. J-J    Tue Aug 8, 04:38 PM #  

    oldswish and I was there:
    Thank you for your valuable history, as a resident of Miami Beach since ‘98 its nice to know more about the Beach’s history. It’s really a shame that none of this is really being properly documented. There are a few nice books at MPL on Ocean and 11th and some cool books at B&B on Lincoln Rd (like Deco Delights)

    I honestly believe that MIami Beach has a history to rival that of many cities. And it certainly would be great if more books could be writen on the diffrent aspects of our community. I vote for the MB synagogue compendium, and a look at Miami Beach’s fashion trends over the decades (from the 20’s until today)


  15. Manola Blablablanik    Tue Aug 8, 05:57 PM #  

    Ongoing now, this exhibit at the Historical Museum. Not to do with Jewish history per se, but they have an extensive research library covering all aspects of SoFla history. Jewish Museum on Washington Ave also has some documentation. We also have the Holocaust Memorial. Thankfully, that’s not going anywhere.

    I will be getting a personal tour from the curator of the current Miami Beach exhibit this week at the Historical Museum. An informative (yet irreverent Manola style) post coming soon at SaTB.