Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2017

Document Type

Thesis

Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors

Department

History

First Advisor

David Shneer

Second Advisor

Sasha Senderovich

Third Advisor

Matthew Gerber

Abstract

The synagogue evolution of the West is part of a larger trend in synagogue history in the United States. Jews were historically a group with limited freedoms in Europe, but upon immigrating to America, they were able to express themselves more openly. One of the major ways in which they expressed themselves were the designs of their synagogues. Often meant to represent some larger value, such as democracy or a return to tradition, synagogues became focal points of both religious worship and Jewish identity. Congregation Har HaShem, a synagogue in Boulder, Colorado, was founded nearly two hundred years after the first Jews began innovating in the United States, but it represented a new chapter in the history of the synagogue: total freedom. The East Coast had offered Jews an inlet into a wider culture that had been closed to them in Europe, but the frontier allowed Jews to take their expression a step further. No longer did they have to buy into American culture to protect themselves, but rather they were able to shape American culture and themselves free of fear. Har HaShem was a small synagogue that represented a minority population in a frontier community, but it was a congregation that found a unique identity through its geography, ideology, and architecture.

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