The Arty Semite

Baytown, Texas Celebrates Historic Synagogue Restoration

By Samuel D. Gruber

  • Print
  • Share Share

Crossposted from Samuel Gruber’s Jewish Art & Monuments

Samuel D. Gruber

On March 27, residents of Baytown, Texas celebrated the restoration of their 80-year-old synagogue, Congregation K’nesseth Israel. The building was designed by Houston architect Lenard Gabert in 1930, and after suffering limited damage in the destructive Hurricane Ike of 2008, has now been repaired and restored. The community center was much more heavily damaged by the storm, and that, too, has been repaired and renamed the Jewish Community Center.

Baytown resulted as a consolidation of Goose Creek, Pelly and Baytown in 1948. It is located at the eastern end of Harris County, 22 miles from Houston, and Jews first settled in Goose Creek after 1915 mostly to provide retail and commercial services to the booming oil and gas facilities. This is hardly a unique situation in the Jewish world. Jewish merchants flocked to Gold rush towns in the 19th century, and they involved themselves in service industries for the oil and gas business in the 20th. I’m reminded of how Jewish retailers moved to Drohobych (now Ukraine), when oil was discovered there in the mid-19th century. My grandfather Joseph Moskowitz was a surveyor the oil companies, especially in the interwar period.

My uncles Mose and Joe Sumner moved to Goose Creek in 1922 from Brenham, Texas and opened a store. Until his death in 1966 Mose was a stalwart of the congregation in Goose Creek, which he helped found in the early 1920s.

Gabert was among the first successful Jewish architects in Texas and K’nesseth Israel was the first of several synagogues he designed. In the 1950s he designed Temple Israel in Schulenberg and in 1957 Shearith Israel in Wharton. The brick building has been listed as a Texas Historical Landmark since 1992. Gabert’s designed many highly regarded Art Deco buildings in the Houston area.

K’nesseth Israel has been described as conveying “a hint of the exotic.” This is mostly the effect of the yellow-brick facade that rises to an arched roof line without break, fully representing the barrel vault roof. This design is, in fact, a fairly common one for synagogues in the late 1920s. Earlier variants can be seen in B’nai Jeshurun in New York City (1918) and the Breed Street Shul in Los Angeles (1923). Of these K’nesseth Israel is by far the simplest and most streamlined — pointing the way to modernist synagogues of the post-World War II period.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Samuel Gruber's Jewish Art and Monuments, Samuel D. Gruber, Louis Goodma, Lenard Gabert, Hurricane Ike, Congregation K'nesseth Israel, Baytown

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.