Architect: Herman Brookman; Whitehouse & Church; John V. Bennes, 1927
Harry A. Herzog
This is actually the second hugely impressive temple this congregation has erected. The earlier one (1889) was a Moorish-Gothic wonder that was the largest place of worship in Portland. It fell victim to an anonymous arsonist in 1923, and from its ashes came the plans for this building. (Well, not literally.)
Made with reinforced concrete, sandstone, salmon-colored brick, and terra-cotta, Temple Beth Israel is an homage to perfection. The plans for the building were reportedly reworked fourteen times before they were considered complete. The accomplished architectural team drew on the general design of an acclaimed Byzantine-style synagogue in Essen, Germany, for inspiration.
The 100-foot-high dome of the temple is still topped with its original terra-cotta shingles. This dome defines the whole building with a powerful organic motif. Said motif is repeated in the turrets of the domed stair towers that flank the entrance, as well as in the smaller columns between the towers and the entryway. Inside, the stained-glass roof at the top of the massive octagonally shaped interior crowns what may be the most profound spiritual space in the city.