B'nai Amoona Synagogue (now Center of Contemporary Arts [COCA])

Eric Mendelsohn

Views of the front

This was the first U. S. commission for Mendelsohn, a German Jew, who moved to the United States in 1941. His dynamic modernist design is dramatically different from the conventional synagogues being built at that time. His interest in Jewish life and culture is also seen in his design of three additional synagogues and a never-executed Holocaust memorial for Riverside Park in New York City.
The actual sanctuary is sited at the back corner, though clearly identifiable because of its striking profile. The entrance is recessed with an adjoining courtyard and a covered walkway.
An admirer of Frank Lloyd Wright, particularly his plastic forms, Mendelsohn designed this sculptural curved cantilevered roof over the sanctuary. Largely devoid of decoration, the exterior of the sanctuary still bears the star of David as a reminder of this room's earlier sacred function. (Today it is a theater.)
Mendelsohn's synagogues were community centers as well as places of worship. In addition to the large sanctuary, this one had a smaller chapel, an assembly hall (now a dance studio), offices, classrooms, a library and kitchen.

Looking toward classroom wing with unique porthole windows and courtyard


View of the sanctuary side and views of the back


Views of the classroom wing

Work Consulted:
Kathleen James-Chakraborty. In the Spirit of Our Age: Eric Mendelsohn's B'nai Amoona Synagogue. St. Louis: Missouri Historical Society Press, 2000.

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© 2003 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. They are not available for commercial purposes.

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