PKSB Architects

SAJ

 

Society for the Advancement of Judaism (SAJ) | NEW YORK, NY

The Society for the Advancement of Judaism is the birthplace of Reconstructionist Judaism. Located in two 19th-century townhouses that were converted into a synagogue in the 1920s, the facility had long been neglected and was badly in need of restoration. The sanctuary, which was arranged in theater-style format with all of the seats facing the ark, had become a gloomy setting for weekly services. Only a small percentage of the main floor seating was occupied, and the rear balcony was used only once a year during the High Holidays. 

PKSB’s renovation created a sacred space that transformed the sanctuary into a new and highly refined setting that incorporated many of its original features. In keeping with traditional dictates, the ark was relocated to the eastern wall which faces Jerusalem. This reconfiguration introduced a sense of intimacy in the sanctuary and greatly enhanced the relationship between the balcony and the ark. An interpretive memorial wall was installed in the niche on the northern wall where the ark was previously located. Existing chandeliers were refurbished, and the stained glass windows were backlit in order to imbue the sanctuary with glowing light.

PKSB also enlarged the formerly small and windowless entry with a double-height space that is illuminated by natural light through south-facing windows. The existing social hall was also renovated and a roof garden was installed.