Upcoming & Recent Events

Sam Gruber is available for public lectures and presentations as well as private tours and consulting. To learn more click here.  In the fall of 2020 Dr. Gruber will be available for online lectures via Zoom or other meeting platforms.

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Now on YouTube

Topic: The Art and Architecture of the Synagogue part 1: Great Synagogues of the World
Topic: The Art and Architecture of the Synagogue part 2: Great Synagogues of the World
Topic: BONUS – Arise and Build: American Synagogues Part 2
Topic: The Art and Architecture of the Synagogue part 3: Great Synagogues of the World

Thursday October 1, 2020

Great Synagogues of the World

Jews are the “People of Book”, but they are also “People of the Building.”  Given the opportunity, Jews have built beautiful synagogues for their communities for hundreds of years. Inspired by the detailed architectural accounts in the Bible and also by their contemporary surroundings, Jews in many places have fulfilled the concept of Hiddur Mitzvah (glorify the commandment) through architecture and architectural decoration.  Great synagogues have been built in Europe of since Middle Ages, but especially since the lavish inauguration of the Portuguese synagogue in Amsterdam in the late seventeenth century the stream of impressive Jewish buildings has continued with little interruption on every inhabited continent throughout the world.  This lecture illustrates this architectural and artistic heritage with historic and contemporary images and introduces many lesser known “great synagogues,” and many recently restored buildings.

Thursday October 8, 2020

Arise and Build: American Synagogues and Jewish Identity

Jews came to America in three main waves. In the 17th and 18th centuries descendants of Spanish Jews – mostly living under Dutch or English rule – settled in the New World and many participated in the War of Independence. By 1800, these Sephardi Jews built synagogues in five cities – Philadelphia, New York, Newport, Charleston, and Savannah. By the mid-19th century, thousands of Central European Jews joined the mass emigration to the United States caused by political unrest and economic instability in Europe, and these immigrants established synagogues from coast to coast. Through synagogue design, Dr. Gruber traces changes in the organization of the American Jewish community and its relationship to American culture.  The location, size, shape, and stylistic language adopted for synagogue designs throughout the century reflects the changing needs and values of American Jews.  This lecture presents a wide range of synagogue types and styles, including humble and grand houses of worship, and synagogues in cities, towns and rural areas. While most publications on synagogue history and architecture focus on a few main population centers, the talk will introduce synagogue – past and present – from across America.

Thursday October 15, 2020

Modern Synagogue Architecture: Between Memory and Innovation

What is modern in Jewish art and architecture?  Since their arrival in America, Jews have tried to be both traditional and modern, and have often embraced the most contemporary art styles and forms.  In the 20th-century, in both Europe and America, modernism came to mean something else – a clear break from artistic historicism, but also the break with many of the institutions, traditions and beliefs from which those historical forms and styles evolved. This illustrated lecture reviews the modernism that is now “historic”, and then looks at some of the most contemporary designs in Jewish synagogue art and architecture.  The presentation is illustrated with photos of many less known or unpublished projects and buildings.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

“Synagogue Wall Painting: Loss and Forgetting; Rediscovery and Conservation.”

At Art of The Lost Conference at Canterbury Cathedral: discussing the Future of the Past   (November 27-29, 2019)

Canterbury Cathedral, Canterbury, England

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

“Romaniote Memories: The Photographs of Vincent Giordano a Greek-Jewish culture in New York and Ioannina (lecture)

Embassy of Greece, Washington D.C.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

“Marc Chagall in Paris, Russia and Israel,” (lecture)

Temple Isaiah, Great Neck, NY

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Discussant at screening  of Sacred Spaces, a new film by Celia Lowenstein

Gershman Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival, National Museum of Jewish History

101 S. Independence Hall East
Philadelphia, PA, 19106

September 19, 2019

“Romaniote Memories: A Jewish Journey from  Ioannina, Greece to Manhattan: Photographs by Vincent Giordano (Samuel Gruber, curator)

Opening of photo exhibit at the Consulate of Greece in New York

69 East 79th Street, New York, NY

September 15, 2019

“Chelsea’s Walnut Street Shul and the Jewish Tradition of Synagogue Wall Painting”

Founder’s Day  featured speaker (entire event program 2-5 p.m.)

Walnut Street Synagogue, 145 Walnut Street, Chelsea, Massachusetts

July 12-July 25

Life and Art in Medieval Assisi & its Environs (at Art Workshop International, Assisi, Italy) July 12 – July 25


“Arnold W. Brunner (1857-1925) and the First Generation of American-born Jewish Architects.,” paper to presented at International Congress “Jewish Architects – Jewish Architecture”, Hamburg, Germany (November 6-8, 2018)

“Architecture Walking Tour: Arts & Crafts Houses in the Berkeley Park Neighborhood,” Arts and Crafts Society of Central New York (Oct. 13, 2018)

“Tent, Tabernacle, Synagogues: A Modern take on an Ancient Form,” European Association of Jewish Studies, Krakow, Poland (July 18, 2018)

“Arts & Crafts Architecture Walking Tour:  Houses in the Salt Springs and Scottholm Neighborhoods,” Arts and Crafts Society of Central New York (June 3, 2018)

“American Synagogue Wall Painting 1860-1960: A Bridge Between Two Worlds,” invited lecture, The Harry Friedman Society, The Jewish Museum, NY (May 27, 2018)


“The Art of Jewish Symbols: Tablets / Ten Commandments,” Community Class at Temple Concord, 910 Madison St., Syracuse, NY (Dec. 5, 2017)

The Art of Jewish Symbols: Tent, Tabernacle & Temple,” Community Class at Temple Concord, 910 Madison St., Syracuse, NY (Nov. 28, 2017)

“The Art of Jewish Symbols: The Menorah,” Community Class at Temple Concord, 910 Madison St., Syracuse, NY (Nov. 7, 2017)

Scholar-in-Residence, Temple Beth-El, San Antonio, Texas (October 19-21, 2017).

  • Thursday October 19:  They Shall Make Me a Sanctuary: An Illustrated History of Synagogue Architecture
  • Friday October 20: Torah and Sacred Space: The Bible as Building Manual
  • Saturday October 21: Arise and Build: Temple Beth El and American Synagogue Design

Presenter, M-Power-U, Menorah Park (Syracuse Jewish Family Service) (October 9, 2017)

The Stone Shall be a Witness: Strategies for the Preservation  and Presentation of Destroyed Structures,” Presentation at International Conference “How to Commemorate the Great Synagogue of Vilna Site?,” Vilnius, Lithuania Sept 4-5, 2017.

Westcott Neighborhood Ward Wellington Ward House Tour Syracuse, New York.  Wednesday, July 26th, 5:30 – 7:30 pm

Building Memory: How European Cities Confront (or Avoid) the Holocaust.” Seymour Siegel Memorial Lecture, Saint Lawrence University (April 18, 2017)


Beyond the Second Commandment: Jewish Sculptors and Modern Art” Temple Adath Yeshurun, Kimber Rd, Syracuse, NY, March 19, 2017

Session chair and respondent, Synagogue and Museum Conference, Braunschweig, Germany (Nov. 21-23, 2016)

The Chai Adam Shul Mural in Burlington, Vermont, as Link Between Old World and New,” at  International Workshop “Synagogue Wall Paintings: Research, Preservation, Presentation,” Jerusalem, Israel (September 13-14, 2016)

Jews, Masons, and Cornerstone Laying Ceremonies for synagogues of the South.,” at  Annual Meeting, Southern Jewish Historical Society, Natchez, Mississippi (USA) (November 4-6, 2016)