“There’s a glorious secret concealed behind a relatively modest, opaque façade on Clark Street just south of Madison Street in the Loop.
“In the tall shadow of the 56-story Chase Bank tower, a little four-story building hardly draws attention with an exterior that appears like a dark, dusty grid. But inside the building, the Loop Synagogue, the secret is revealed: The rear of that dark and dusty wall is a spectacular display of stained glass that stretches 30 feet high and 45 feet wide.
“It’s the east wall of a beautifully modern sanctuary, is limestone made to look like blocks cut at angles to evoke the ancient stones of the Western Wall in Jerusalem. The sanctuary is also home to a row of tall, impossibly slender columns — a trademark of mid-20th century architecture — that support the ceiling. The windows, monumental in scale and completed in 1961, depict many symbols and icons of Judaism.
“‘This is a treasure in Chicago,’ said Lee Zoldan, the synagogue’s president. Yet it’s a rarely seen treasure.
“Membership at the synagogue, which was built in 1957, was already declining before the pandemic — down to about 425 members from nearly 1,500 in the early 1990s. Then the pandemic hit, and the synagogue’s three services a day, five days a week, suddenly had very little audience. Members generally aren’t Loop residents but Loop workers, Zoldan said. Services also attract visitors from other cities and countries, but that too has been severely curtailed since March 2020.
“The congregation has no debt on the building, Zoldan said, and is not in danger of shutting down overnight, but ‘we look out at the next few years, and we need to do something now, before it’s too late.’ (Rodkin, WBEZ Chicago, 5/13/21)