Sinai Temple | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo by Larry Underhill

Sinai Temple

Sinai Temple is a magnificent statement in Expressionist design. The building was designed by architect Sidney Eisenshtat, a graduate of USC’s School of Architecture and student of Frank Lloyd Wright. Eisenshtat is considered one of Southern California’s preeminent architects of modern synagogues, academic buildings, and Jewish community centers. He was an expert in thin-shell concrete construction, which allowed him to create enormous interior spaces with soaring roofs and walls.

Sinai Temple spans an entire block of Wilshire Boulevard. The design repeats a motif of pyramids and triangles. Thirteen multi-colored pyramids run the length of the Wilshire Boulevard façade, and an eighty-foot tower of five stained-glass triangles juts above the angular walls of the main sanctuary on the east-facing corner. The white walls are mostly devoid of decoration, but the angles and planes formed by the triangles cast intricate shadows across all façades.

Sculptural details on main elevation include a bronze figure holding a torah on southeast corner. The western interior is divided between the sanctuary and social hall. A massive interior wall, 120 feet long, 55 feet high, and weighing 64,000 pounds, can be raised on counterweights to expand the sanctuary to accommodate 1,600 people.

Sinai Temple opened just in time for the Jewish high holidays in September 1960. The congregation was the first conservative Jewish congregation in Southern California and had followed the westward migration of L.A.’s Jewish population from downtown in 1906 to Wilshire Center in 1925 and then to its current location in Westwood in 1960. The building was expanded in 1998 to improve its school and banquet facilities.