Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Photo Essay: Pico-Union Project, From Temple to Church to Mosque

Sometimes, a building is just a building. It's what you do with it that matters.



Sinai Temple, LA's first Conservative synagogue, was built in 1909 in what is now the Pico-Union area of the city...



...before it moved farther west to Wilshire Boulevard...



...and decades before the Jews were bustling about Boyle Heights.



The former temple has now been turned into the headquarters for the Pico-Union Project...



...which is dedicated to the Jewish principle of "love your neighbor as yourself" (which Christians will recognize as "love thy neighbor").



Founded in 2013 by Jewish musician Craig Taubman...



...the temple had actually been operating as the Welsh Presbyterian Church since 1925...



...retaining (and maintaining) much of the temple's original Jewish and architectural features...



...like the mosaic tile floor in the front vestibule...



...and the stained glass windows...



...including the rose window in the former choir loft, which is now a seated balcony with original wooden seats.



The sanctuary has essentially been converted into a theater, and the Pico-Union Project welcomes performances and parties from all cultures and religious traditions...



...in fact, insisting that each evening's program be culturally diverse...



...from Jewish and Yiddish music to comedy and electronic dance music and DJs.



I'd love to see musical groups from around the world figure out how to incorporate their Murray M. Harris pipe organ into their performances. Original to 1909, the organ is essentially unaltered from its original state, and is one of the few of its kind remaining in the country.



The Pico-Union Project, this former Christian church and Jewish synagogue, now also welcomes The Women's Mosque of America, which had a hard time finding a place for worship before settling here.



It actually houses five different worship communities, and rents the place out for special religious services as well as parties and performances. It may be the oldest synagogue building in LA, but it now loves its neighbors, who are largely immigrants from Central America, Mexico, Cuba, and Korea. But all are welcome – come one, come all. Even when I, a recovering Catholic, wandered in off the street unexpected, I got the grand tour. And it felt like home.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Breed Street Shul, Unsafe for Entry
Photo Essay: Hollywood's First Jewish Temple, Restored