State of New Mexico Historic Register
On February 15th, 2019, the New Mexico Cultural Properties Review Committee in Santa Fe unanimously accepted the nomination of Congregation B’nai Israel for a listing in the National Register of Historic Places. By doing so, Congregation B’nai Israel was placed on the State of New Mexico Historic Places, commonly referred to as the State Historic Register.
This was an important event for Congregation B’nai Israel, our community at large, and the City of Albuquerque, because the nomination acknowledged the cultural significance of our Congregation and the architectural importance of our building.
Our nomination met two criteria: ethnic heritage, and architectural significance. Congregation B’nai Israel, established by Jews of Eastern European descent, is now recognized as an important community asset that provides religious services, education, and celebrations of major life events for the congregational members in a unique facility designed by George Wynn.
The building reflects our Jewish heritage: the roof of the sanctuary symbolizes the tent of Jacob in an expression of Late Modernism architecture.
This placement on the State Historic Register is significant for us as a congregation because it is an acknowledgment of our forefathers’ hard work, time, and focused efforts in building our unique identity. They provided us with a one-of-a kind sanctuary that can’t be replaced, and a home where we may gather to celebrate and worship.
On May 2, 2019, historians officially added the synagogue to the National Register of Historic Places. Our building is a wonderful gift that is now acknowledged by the State of New Mexico and the nation.
Architectural Heritage Preservation Award
On May 17, 2019, Congregation B’nai Israel of Albuquerque proudly received the prestigious 2019 Architectural Heritage Preservation Award by the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division of the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs. A formal ceremony and reception were held in Santa Fe as part of the celebration of the 47th annual New Mexico Heritage Preservation Month.
Elynn M. Finston, CBI President, accepted the award on behalf of the entire congregation. She was joined at the ceremony by members of the congregation who reveled in this meaningful recognition.
It was a distinct honor that our building was the sole recipient of that year’s Historic Preservation Award. The building design is a contemporary reflection of our people’s ancient history, where the members of the congregation gather like our ancestors did, under Jacob’s tent in the desert. The award communicates that our ethnically and architecturally significant building is a historic landmark worth preservation in the state of New Mexico. With the award, our one-of-a-kind structure may become more widely appreciated by architectural enthusiasts, state tourists, and residents alike.
The Cultural Properties Review Committee articulated that, “Congregation B’nai Israel is a late-20th-century Expressionist-style synagogue located on the East Mesa at the corner of Washington Street and Indian School Road in Albuquerque. Architect E. George Wynn designed the synagogue in two parts: a rectangular educational wing and the circular-shaped sanctuary, which is covered with a conical-shaped roof. The roof, which is supported by laminated-wood arches and covered with tongue-and-groove strips of wood, provides an open sanctuary that requires no interior supports. The building was completed in 1971. Since its construction, the congregation has been an excellent steward of the historic synagogue even as its needs have changed.”
New Mexico’s Cultural Properties Review Committee has presented Heritage Preservation Awards for outstanding preservation achievements since the 1970s. Individuals, organizations, authors, local heroes, businesses, and agencies have received awards for significant contributions to preserving architecture, archaeological sites, language, cultural landscapes, and less tangible elements of our culture. Grassroots preservationists, architects, archaeologists, and people who have made it a point to familiarize their community with the value of preservation have won preservation awards. Becoming an award recipient is a testimony that our building is a landmark for diversity in Albuquerque, and our entire state.
The House: Caring for Our Building
Are you handy with tools? Would you like to help preserve our incredible but graciously aging building? Join Russell Goldstein's House Committee to help maintain & enhance our physical space. Call the office at (505) 266-0155 for more information.