When he was in rabbinical school Rabbi Josh Brown took a class about synagogue architecture and became fascinated by the subject. And as construction continues on Temple Israel’s new building, what better time to look back at the history of the synagogue.

“We’re in the midst of building a synagogue and I thought it would be interesting to look at the trends over nearly three thousand years of Jewish history,” Rabbi Brown said.

As part of Temple Israel’s Thursday morning Adult Study with Clergy, Rabbi Brown will examine synagogues both ancient and modern, and discuss what we can learn about a community by how they built their holy places.

“I love synagogue architecture,” Rabbi Brown said. “Synagogue structures reflect the way we utilize our space. There are synagogues around the world that are just a room with a Torah, and there are synagogues like Temple Israel, both the current building and the one that’s under construction, with lots of places for learning, classrooms, a social hall. You can learn a lot about a community by how they delegate their space.”

Over the course of the 10-week class, titled “Articulate Architecture,” Rabbi Brown will look at the earliest known examples of synagogues, which at least existed alongside the Second Temple, if not predated it outright, according to Rabbi Brown.

“We don’t know when the first synagogues were built,” he said. “But we can still examine the spaces that we know were utilized by the ancient Israelites. We’re going to look at what they tell us about how they practiced Jewish life and then we’re going to do the same with modern synagogues in America.”

Rabbi Brown is hopeful that the class will be informative and maybe even a little surprising.

“We have rules today that are pretty well known,” Rabbi Brown said. “Like, a lot of people know you’re not supposed to put images of human beings in synagogues, but we find in some of the oldest synagogues in history there are images of people, like Moses depicted as a Greek god.”

Adult Study with Clergy takes place on Thursday mornings, from 10 – 11:30 a.m. “Articulate Architecture” begins on January 3 and runs through March 7. All are welcome. The cost is $45 for Temple Israel members and $55 for non-members. For more information, contact Program Director Wendy Goldberg.