Sacred Spaces in Downtown: Temple Israel of Greater Miami

Image: The Worship Space

Sure this one isn’t exactly in Downtown (CBD), but it is in the urban core. Located on 19th street and N.E. 2nd Avenue, the Temple is not easily noticed. Nevertheless, it is one of the City’s most strikingly beautiful sacred spaces. The main temple sanctuary, built in 1926, was designed by Robertson and Paterson to create a “Moorish-Gothic confection of stained glass and tropical tile”.

In addition to the main sanctuary, there is the other-worldly worship space. The Temple’s website describes it this way:

“Imagine a large, luminous igloo suffused with rays of sunlight and eye-popping color, and you begin to get the idea.”

Image: Worship space interior as seen on the Temple’s website

Temple Israel of Greater Miami takes its role in Judaism as a reformation:

“Reform Judaism is, as much as anything, a search for truths rather than a recitation of them…The architecture of this chapel is intended to echo that quest.”

Such an unorthodox integration of faith and architecture makes this sacred space truly wondrous.


Bertha Abess Sanctuary (image provided by Vivian Simo)



Filed under BoB Articles, Sacred Spaces

5 responses to “Sacred Spaces in Downtown: Temple Israel of Greater Miami

  1. That last picture is a testament to bad additions. They even picked the generic “peach” color that is standard with bland styles. It just does not even go with the rest of the building.

    The original building is awesome though. Not my cup of tea particularly but definitely impressive. And it creates an incredible interior particularly with it’s use of stained glass.

  2. I have to admit that the last picture is its self an injustice to the main building, which from what I understood on the website, to be the old one. There’s not much one can say about the color though. The fresh looking segment was actually subsequently built. I agree, not my cup of tea either, but refreshing nonetheless.

  3. The picture portrayed here is not the main sanctuary but the entrance to the Brown Patio, and the Wolfson/Kahn Event Center.

    Our historic main sanctuary, whose groundbreaking was in 1927, is the oldest synagogue in Florida. The architects, Robertson & Patterson, which were also the architects of the building on South Beach where the Wolfsonian Museum is housed. The original Temple Israel – a Moorish-Gothic confection of stained glass and tropical tile – is in the style popular in Miami in the 1920s. The sanctuary is on the National Register of Historic Places.

    The sanctuary – named the Bertha Abess Sanctuary for the matriarch of the family that founded City National Bank – retains its historic ambience, although it has also undergone several changes over the years. Its central podium was replaced with two podia after the temple hired its first cantor in the fifties. A massive restoration (which included the establishment of a center aisle, where congregants now sometimes dance during “Lecha Dodi”) took place in the nineties.

  4. BoB

    Thank you for the information. It’s very insightful.

  5. maile

    do you know who designed the chapel?

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