August 9, 2021
Today, as part of Epstein’s Top 100 Projects countdown, we're highlighting the Epstein-designed Congregation Rodfei Zedek, located at 5200 S. Hyde Park Boulevard and completed in 1955.
Congregation Rodfei Zedek, which was established in 1874, was experiencing significant growth during the 1940s. Reforms in ritual continued to make worship at Rodfei Zedek more modern and aesthetically appealing. And, combined with educational reforms, more than 200 new member families were attracted to the congregation. By the end of World War II, it was recognized that Rodfei Zedek’s existing synagogue on Greenwood Avenue could no longer meet the demands of a steadily growing membership. In 1948, property was acquired in Hyde Park, and Epstein was commissioned to design a new synagogue, community center and educational center. This commission was especially near and dear to the heart of Abraham Epstein and his sons, Raymond and Sidney, as they were all long-standing members of the congregation.
This striking and modern new facility featured a modernist design comprised of a structural steel frame and an exterior façade comprised of red-face brick, stone and expansive glass panels on the main entrance. In addition, much use was made of corrugated glass on the interiors to maximize daylight.
The facility, which served over 800 families, featured an auditorium that was used as both an assembly room and gymnasium, a synagogue, libraries, classrooms, a nursery, a kitchen and office space. Epstein’s engineers designed a recessed incandescent lighting system in the auditorium as well as a radiant heating system throughout the building.
The expansive lobby featured a collection of previous ritual and religious objects, Israeli artwork and books dedicated to Judaism. The synagogue, which provided seating for 1,500, had curved wooden trusses that extended from floor to ceiling and an entrance featuring a wall of marble quarried from Israel.
This facility served as Rodfei Zedek’s home for nearly 50 years. A brand new facility for Rodfei Zedek was completed in 2000 at the same Hyde Park address.