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Three boro synagogues named to state and federal historic lists

Three Queens synagogues have been listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places, the New York Landmarks Conservancy and Preservation League of New York State announced this week.

Dozens of borough residents gathered at Borough Hall Tuesday to celebrate the Free Synagogue of Flushing, the Rego Park Jewish Center and the Astoria Center of Israel being recognized by the state and federal governments as dynamic cultural institutions that are important repositories of religious decorative art.

“These three synagogues embody decades of history, architectural character and cultural heritage and traditions,” Borough President Helen Marshall said. “They are distinctive living memorials that now have a new chapter written into their history. The listing of these synagogues on the national and state registers of historic places is proof of their enduring value through generations and helps ensure their future on our borough’s landscape.”

Their status on the national register listing allows the synagogues to partake in the New York Landmarks Conservancy’s Sacred Sites grant program and makes them eligible to apply for state historic preservation matching grants.

“These national register nominations are the first step in what we hope will be a long relationship with the conservancy as we work with the congregations to maintain these beautiful structures,” said Peg Breen, president of the New York Landmarks Conservancy.

The synagogues, nominated for placement on the registers in August, boast a variety of architectural styles.

The Free Synagogue of Flushing is a 1927 Neoclassical Revival synagogue that was designed by architect Maurice Courland, established as part of the reform-minded “Free Synagogue” movement, which emphasized no reserved seating in the sanctuary, a dedication to the ideals of liberal democracy and a commitment to the Jewish faith and the state of Israel.

The Flushing building features a carved limestone temple front, copper pediment and dome and stained glass skylight and windows.

The Rego Park Jewish Center is a modernist synagogue designed by Frank Grad & Sons and built in 1948 to serve the fast-growing Jewish population of the area. The building features a large entrance mosaic and leaded glass windows designed by A. Raymond Katz, a major figure in 20th-century American Jewish art.

“It’s a beacon on Queens Boulevard and in Queens,” said Ruthe Unger, the Rego Park Jewish Center’s third vice president. “It’s a house of worship filled with love and joy.”

The Astoria Center of Israel is one of the few surviving early-20th century synagogues in the borough and was designed by architect Louis Allen Abramson. The synagogue sanctuary features Art Deco wall and ceiling murals by noted French muralist Louis Pierre Rigal.

“This is very exciting because it gives us recognition in the community,” said Astoria resident Andrea Pack, whose grandparents helped to found the synagogue in the mid-1920s.

Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by e-mail at agustafson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 174.

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