One of the United Hebrew Congregation founding members, Gabriel Newburger, is credited
with the inspiration of the temple’s architecture after bringing back his sketches of the
magnificent Hagia Sophia, which is now a museum and is in current day Istanbul, Turkey. Mr.
Newburger was accompanied on this trip by his brother-in-law and business partner Solomon
Newman. (see page 4) Austin Allen used the sketches to design the temple in the Oriental style
which was in vogue in Joplin around this time.
The temple is constructed of red hollow tile covered with stucco. Originally the dome had the
effect of aged copper.
In 1970 an electrical fire caused considerable damage to the building, dome, and minaret. The
insurance coverage restored the building, but the company made the congregation an offer to
install central air-conditioning in lieu of replacing the distinctive dome and minaret. Regardless
of the distinctive missing elements, this historic structure still occupies an important part of
Joplin’s past and present.
Over the years, the congregation’s size fluctuated, peaking during the World War II years at
about 125 families. Today the congregation, although small, is active in community affairs and
is a vibrant spiritual family.