During the first weeks of September in 1960, craftsmen and artisans worked around the clock to put the finishing touches on Los Angeles’ Sinai Temple, so that congregants could begin to recite the Selichot (penitential poems and prayers) for the High Holidays.
Designed by Sidney Eisenshtat ’35, the Sinai Temple, located at 10400 Wilshire Blvd. in Westwood, features a massive door with a length of 120 feet and height of 55 feet. Weighing in at 64,000 pounds, the door separated the sanctuary from the community hall, but when it was raised with counterweights, more than 1,600 people could worship together.
Other elements Eisenshtat incorporated into the design of the $3.5 million temple were an 80-ft. stained glass tower, a two-story subterranean parking garage and 13 multicolored pyramids along the building’s façade. More than a half-century later, Eisenshtat is still considered one of Southern California’s preeminent designers of modern synagogues, academic buildings and Jewish community centers.
In 1999, the architect donated many documents related to his life and professional career to his alma mater. The Sidney Eisenshtat Papers, which are preserved in the USC Libraries’ Helen Topping Architecture and Fine Arts Library, consist of a large number of letters, engineering specifications, drawings, renderings and photographs relating to Eisenshtat’s architectural projects, including Temple Emanuel (1952), Brandeis-Bardin House of the Book (1954) and USC’s Hillel House (1969).
Although he is most noted for his religious architecture, Eisenshtat also designed many private residences and landmark commercial buildings.
One of his most historic commercial buildings is the Wilshire Triangle Center (1961) at the corner of Wilshire and Santa Monica Boulevards in Beverly Hills. Predating the opening of the similarly designed Century Plaza Hotel by a year, the $6.5 million center was the first arc-shaped building constructed in Southern California and the tallest building in Beverly Hills when it opened. Subsequently rechristened the Beverly Hills Gateway Tower, Eisenshtat’s building overlooks one of the busiest intersections on Los Angeles’ Westside.
When Eisenshtat died in 2005, he left behind a legacy of minimalist architecture throughout the Southern California basin that includes the Union Bank Building (1960) in Beverly Hills, the Sven Lokrantz School for Disabled Children (1959-1977) in Reseda and the Westside Jewish Community Center (1950) in Los Angeles. He also designed the master plan for the University of Judaism (1977) in Bel Air. More about all of these projects can be found in the USC Libraries collection.
For more information on the Sidney Eisenshtat Papers, contact the Helen Topping Architecture and Fine Arts Library at (213) 740-8759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.