Temple Sherith Israel

  • Also Known As: Temple Israel

  • Travel Genus: Sight
  • Sight Category: Building

Temple Sherith Israel is a large domed synagogue in Pacific Heights, a well-to-do residential neighborhood of San Francisco, surrounded mostly by late nineteenth century and early twentieth century houses and apartment buildings. It is located in a conspicuous location near the top of a ridge so that it overlooks and can be seen from a wide area. Its structure is in two parts, brick exterior walls and an interior cage of steel that supports the dome, the roof, and most loads. Stylistically it mixes Byzantine and Romanesque imagery, composed in the Beaux Arts manner. The most notable features of its exterior are its high dome, stone veneer with carved details, and large-arched pavilions on each facade that enclose a textured concentration of architectural ornamentation and colored glass. The most notable features of the interior are along the sequence of ceremonial spaces - vestibule, main stairs, foyer, and sanctuary - with rich materials and fine craftsmanship. The culmination of the interior sequence is the space under the dome. There, clear light from windows in the drum that supports the dome, filtered light through a myriad of colored glass windows on three sides, and electric light from over a thousand bulbs that outline interior features create a dazzling effect as they illuminate the brilliant colors and features of the interior - especially painted, frescoed, and stenciled plaster surfaces and the carved Ark wall. Among interior details, the great arched west window in stained glass of Moses at Yosemite is a masterpiece of American stained glass art, notable in it size, its craftsmanship, and its unique expression of the Promised Land in California. Although there are some alterations - notably the painted stone exterior, removal of iron gates and wood doors at the main entry, and remodeling of some secondary interior spaces - the building retains a high degree of integrity. - NRHP, 31 October 2009



Y/M/D Person Association Description Composition Food Event
Y/M/D Person Association Description Composition Food Event
Attilio Moretti Artist Attilio Moretti paints frescos on the dome of Sherith Israel
1903/00/00 Albert Pissis Architect Albert Pissis submits his plans for Temple Sherith Israel.
1905/09/24 Temple Sherith Israel is consecrated
1906/05/00 After the San Francisco earthquake, Temple Sherith Israel houses the Superior Courts of the City and County of San Francisco Great 1906 San Francisco Earthquake
1908/00/00 Temple Sherith Israel is the primary site of the San Francisco Graft Prosecution of 1906-1908
1945/04/20 Temple Sherith Israel hosts a 'United Nations Sabbath' for the United Nations Conference on International Organization Establishment of the United Nations

Data »

Particulars for Temple Sherith Israel:
Area of Significance Architecture
Criteria Architecture-Engineering
Architectural Style Beaux Arts
Sight Category Building
Criteria Historic Event
Area of Significance Law, Legal System
Owner Private
Historic Use Religious Property
Architectural Style Romanesque Revival

US National Registry of Historic Places Data »

Accurate at time of registration:

Registry Name:
Registry Address:
Registry Number: 10000114
Resource Type:
Owner: Private
Architect: Pissis, Albert
Architectural Style: Beaux arts, Romanesque
Other Certification: Date received-pending nomination
Level of Significance: Local
Area of Significance: Law, Architecture
Applicable Criteria: Event, Architecture-Engineering
Criteria Consideration: Religious property
Significant Year: 1905, 1906, 1908
Historic Function: Religion
Historic Sub-Function: Religious structure
Current Function: Religion
Current Sub-Function: Religious structure

History »

United Nations

Toward the end of World War II, international efforts were begun to establish an organization of countries to maintain world peace. To this end a meeting was held in San Francisco beginning 25 April 1945 - the United Nations Conference on International Organization. For the duration of the meeting, San Francisco was the temporary capital of the world. The meeting was attended by representatives from forty-six countries and numerous international organizations.

After the initial meeting at the San Francisco Opera House, meetings were held in various places around San Francisco. Some places had an official connection to the conference; for example, the Woman's Athletic Club was asked by the organizers to provide support for distinguished women attending the conference, and the Alcazar theater presented film programs for all persons holding conference credentials. Other places played an incidental role, such as hotels and restaurants. And other places were involved from the outside: a newspaper article was headlined Protestant Churches to Pray for Meeting.

In this context, Temple Sherith Israel participated unofficially, but in a substantive way. The meeting at Temple Sherith Israel was sponsored by the Synagogue Council of America for and by the local Jewish community . . . for the purpose of bringing together all elements of the local Jewish community to present, from a Jewish viewpoint, the spiritual values of the . . . United Nations. Two thousand people attended the meeting - far more than the seating capacity; Seven rabbis, three cantors, their congregations and choirs participated in the program. The principal speaker was Rabbi Elliot M Burstein of Congregation Beth Israel who spoke about the need for international law.

The political message, if any, that came out of the meeting is unknown. The most important Jewish issues of the time were the particular suffering of the Jews in Europe during the war and the establishment of Palestine as the Jewish National Home. The official voice of American Jews at the conference was provided by representatives from the American Jewish Conference and the American Jewish Committee. On the issue of Palestine, these groups cancelled each other out: the American Jewish Conference supported the creation of a Jewish state and the American Jewish Committee did not.

In the two weeks after the big meeting, Dr. Israel Goldstein, brother of Congregation Sherith Israel Rabbi Morris Goldstein, spoke at Sherith Israel. Dr. Goldstein was a representative of the American Jewish Conference and president of the Zionist Organization of America. Later, Dr. Maurice Persweig of the World Jewish Congress and a colleague of Dr Goldstein spoke at Temple Sherith Israel. - NRHP, 31 October 2009


Temple Sherith Israel is significant under Criterion A in the area of Law as the primary site of the San Francisco Graft Prosecution of 1906-1908. It is significant at the local level for the period 1906-1908. Because Temple Sherith Israel was the largest building left standing in San Francisco after the devastating earthquake and fire of 18-21 April 1906, it was quickly occupied by most of the Superior Courts of the City and County of San Francisco. From October 1906 to February 1908, it was the primary site of the Graft Prosecution. Graft-related proceedings held in the synagogue including Grand Jury indictments of Eugene Schmitz, the mayor, Abraham Ruef, a powerful attorney and corrupt political operator, and many other public officials accused of receiving bribes as well as corporate officials accused of paying bribes; the confession of Ruef for bribery schemes involving French restaurants; and the trial and conviction of Louis Glass of the Pacific States Telephone Company for bribery. This was a major turning point in San Francisco's political history and influenced other California cities to undertake similar prosecutions. - NRHP, 31 October 2009


Temple Sherith Israel is significant under Criterion C in the area of Architecture as the work of a master, architect Albert Pissis. Pissis was educated at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and was among the leading architects in San Francisco from the 1880s to his death in 1914. He designed many of the most prominent buildings in the city during that time, including the Panorama Building, the Hibernia Bank, the Emporium, the Flood Building, and Temple Sherith Israel. From the beginning of his career, his two principle client groups were French and Jewish. Temple Sherith Israel is the culmination of his work for Jewish clients and the only one to express that relationship in architecture. In the context of his work at large, dominated by buildings with classical imagery from antiquity, the Renaissance, and Baroque periods. Temple Sherith Israel stands out for its distinctive style, primarily based on Byzantine and Romanesque sources. At the same time it is an exemplary representative of Pissis' work as a whole in that it provides a clear expression of the application of Beaux-Arts principles of design.. - NRHP, 31 October 2009

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