Temple Sherith Israel

While one struggles finding the story in some buildings, others have abundant stories.  One such is Temple Sherith Israel.

To begin with it is one of the oldest synagogues in the United States, and is one part of the oldest congregation in California.  It split almost immediately from the other, Temple Emmanu-el.  The latter chose to follow the prayer practice of its largely Bavarian congregation, while Sherith Israel chose to observe the practice of Polish Jews from Posen.

The building was commissioned in 1902 and consecrated in 1905.  Pissis, a Catholic, no doubt secured the commission because of his acknowledged ability and reputation as well as his influential connections in the Jewish Community.

In the aftermath of 1906, Sherith Israel was one of the few undamaged public buildings in the city.  It therefore served for a time as venue for the city's Municipal Courts.  It was here that the graft trials of Mayor Eugene Schmitz and political Boss Abe Reuf were held, and Reuf convicted.

For many years the building has been covered with the pink paint that can still be seen around the dome, in the mistaken belief that it would inhibit the natural flaking - known as "spalling" - of the Colusa Sandstone cladding.  Actually, by trapping moisture against the surface, it has accelerated the process.

The recent work on the building - removal of the old paint, cleaning and restoration, and state mandated seismic upgrades - has revealed some interesting information about the original design team. 

Some of the stained glass was created by painter Emile Pissis.  It is the only known collaboration between the two Pissis brothers.  These works are also among a small handful of surviving works of any kind by Emile.

Additionally, the frescoes in the building were done by Milan born Attilio Moretti, a prolific designer of religious sanctuaries and memorials who died in 1915.  It is believed that the frecoes here are his only surviving work of this type.