Sidney Eisenshat (1914-2005) enjoyed a long and distinguished career as an architect whose practice was based in Los Angeles. Born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1914, Eisenshtat settled in Los Angeles in 1926 and graduated from the University of Southern California School of Architecture in 1935. In his early career, Eisenshtat worked on large projects for the United States Department of Defense and designed tract houses and retail stores in Los Angeles and surrounding Southern California communities.
After he established his own firm, Eisenshtat, an observant Orthodox Jew, devoted much of his practice to religious architecture, becoming an influential architect of modern synagogues, as well as Jewish academic buildings and community centers. In 1951, he designed his first major religious work, Temple Emanuel in Beverly Hills, which has often been compared to the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. He later built many other synagogues and centers for Jewish study, such as the Sinai Temple in Los Angeles (1953), the Brandeis-Bardin House of the Book in Simi Valley (1954), the Mount Sinai Temple in El Paso, Texas (1956), Hillel House at USC (1969), and the University of Judaism in Bel-Air (1977). For Eisenshtat, these commissions expressed his devotion to Jewish traditions and values and he therefore performed much of his work for religious communities gratis. Each of his projects was unique in form, yet all displayed a minimalist sensibility that is characteristic of modernism and a sculptural robustness that recalls the work of Expressionist architects such as Eric Mendelsohn, whose innovative synagogues Eisenshtat greatly admired. Like Mendelsohn, Eisenshtat designed buildings with walls of thin-slab concrete or brick that were virtually devoid of decoration, but that were highly expressive through the use of simple materials and plentiful natural light. Sculpture, mosaics, and stained glass were often incorporated into Eisenshtat's work, but these elements remained subservient to the overall architectural design.
Although his synagogues were among his most personal creations, Eisenshtat also applied his formidable talents as a designer to his many commercial projects. Until his retirement in the 1980s, Eisenshtat designed many noteworthy modern office buildings and other structures near the Wilshire Corridor in Beverly Hills, including the Friars Club (1959), which was a gathering place for many of the city's comedians and entertainers, and the Union Bank building (1960), which has become an unofficial neighborhood landmark.