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Gates of Heaven Synagogue, located on the southern corner of James Madison Park, is the eighth oldest extant synagogue in the country. It was designed by German-born Madison architect August Kutzbock in the Rundbogenstil style (a type of architecture combining the Byzantine, Romanesque, and Renaissance styles; this was common in Germany during the 19th century) and built in 1863. For many years the Congregation Shaarei Shamayim worshipped here. Various churches and businesses, including a veterinarian clinic and funeral home, also used the building. The synagogue was moved here from its original location in 1971 to save it from demolition. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places a year earlier. Currently, it is used for weddings, social gatherings, concerts, and for Jewish prayer and worship services.


  • Gates of Heaven Synagogue is the eighth oldest synagogue in the country that is still standing. Photo: Wikipedia Commons
  • The First Unitarian Society building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. Photo: First Unitarian Society

Samuel Klauber, from Germany, was the first Jewish person to settle in Madison. Other German Jews arrived in the coming years and they decided to raise funds to build the synagogue. Financial difficulties forced the congregation to sell the building to the Unitarians in 1873. It was at this point that the building began to be used for different purposes for nearly the next century. After the building's move to the park, members of the Jewish community used it to hold prayer and worship services. Some of these members decided to create a modern Congregation Shaarei Shamayim, which occurred in 1989. They met at Gates of Heaven for many years until 2008 when they started to share the First Unitarian Society building (which was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright), located on 900 University Bay Drive.

Anderson, Donald. "Old Synagogue." National Park Service - National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form. December 29, 1970. https://npgallery.nps.gov/GetAsset/5b85c24a-adf7-4a02-97ae-07f99a0ea5e9. 

"History of the Synagogue." Congregation of Shaarei Shamayim. Accessed January 31, 2017. https://www.shamayim.org/content/history-congregation.