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Mapping 1940 Diversity for Beth Hebrew Synagogue in Phoenix, Arizona

Kelly Bitler - 2020 Spring Graduate 

This project is a mapping exercise to explore diversity and social context of a historic Phoenix synagogue in 1940 which focuses on the intersection of geography, urban planning, history, and culture. It was completed in support of the cross-disciplinary Beth Hebrew Research Team, which seeks to explore the past of Beth Hebrew Synagogue, located in downtown Phoenix. The building was home to first a Jewish congregation, then a Latino Protestant congregation, and finally the Black Theatre Troupe before being abandoned. Now, it is hoped that with the information collected by the research team, it may become a place of community gathering and education.

The first component of the project was reviewing 1940 census data for race, country of origin, and addresses. This information was used to create maps of Hispanic and Black populations living in the area to answer questions about the community Beth Hebrew was created in. Was it diverse? Were Jewish people treated as a minority to some degree? How did the practice of redlining affect this area? The information collected was then mapped to be included as a graphic in an article for a local journal written by Dr. Volker Benkert of the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies. We found that the area was more diverse than many other Phoenix communities, with a relatively strong Hispanic presence due in part to the proximity of St. Mary's Basilica.

Contact information 

kbitler@asu.edu