The Diaspora Synagogue: Jewish Architecture and the Inter-Communal Networks of the 17th and 18th Century Atlantic

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Mitchell, Elizabeth, Constructed Environment - School of Architecture, University of Virginia
Li, Shiqiao, AR-Arch Dept, University of Virginia

The Jewish Atlantic world of the 17th and 18th centuries was fundamentally connected by a shared Jewish culture that developed directly out of the experience of mass conversions and expulsions of the prior centuries, most significantly those of the Iberian Inquisitions. At the start of the 17th century, a Jewish community emerged in Amsterdam that over the course of the century became a center of an extensive inter-communal network that linked newly established Jewish communities in the Netherlands, England, the Caribbean, South and North America. This network was economic, religious, and social, and provided Jewish congregations in the Dutch and English world with the material support and religious leadership required to maintain Jewish practice, build public synagogues, and strengthen their shared cultural identity.
This dissertation is focused on the 17th and 18th century Dutch and English Jewish communities in the Atlantic region and studies the synagogues constructed within this diaspora as outputs, or events, of a complex system. The scale and complexity of relationships within this system is addressed through the use of a custom-built relational database and methods in network analysis. These digital methods enable an expansive study of synagogue architecture that exposes patterns that interrogate existing arguments surrounding the impact of “mother synagogues” in Amsterdam and London on colonial synagogues and illuminates the complexities of architectural inheritance and the ways that buildings reflect communal values.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Architecture, Networks, Synagogues, Religious Architecture, Colonial Architecture, British Atlantic, Dutch Atlantic, Sephardim
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