Meek’s coffee-table book is an informative introduction to the development of the synagogue, tracing its serpentine history from pre-First Temple times to the present. An architectural historian, Meek is best in examining structures—and this volume is full of them, containing 200 illustrations showing, among other things, the ancient synagogues at Masada and Herodium, old-country synagogues of the Polish shtetls and Frank Lloyd Wright’s modern, Art Deco-Mayan-style synagogue in Pennsylvania.
Recent scholarship has raised intriguing questions about the rise of the synagogue and the practice of Judaism. What are the synagogue’s shadowy origins? And what was its purpose? Synagogues, we know, were being built while the Second Temple still stood—so how were functions distributed between these institutions? Although Meek does not fully answer these questions, The Synagogue, with its useful glossary, bibliography and index, is a delightful place to start.
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