Architect Eric Salitsky was deeply invested in architectural design that brought together people from different walks of life. This commitment led him to seek multi-faith places of worship in hospitals, universities and airports in Europe and North America. This is also what attracted him to the architecture and design firm Designing Justice + Designing Spaces.
The Oakland-based nonprofit specializes in buildings that promote restorative justice, from “mobile safe houses,” where formerly incarcerated people live when they return to their communities, to coworking spaces for organizations. of social activists. In 2019, the firm opened the nation’s first center for restorative justice and restorative economics, in East Oakland, according to its website.
“I’m a huge fan of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces,” Salitsky wrote in an email to friends at Camp Ramah in New England in September 2020, during a Rosh Hashanah discussion of organizations deserving of tzedakah. . “They use architecture, planning and development to fight mass incarceration.”
On May 5, Salitsky was tragically hit and killed by a truck while riding his bike near his Brooklyn home. He was 35 and “looking forward to the arrival of his first child” with his wife, Tamara Cohen, according to his online obituary. (The 62-year-old driver of the private sanitation truck drove off, possibly unaware that he had punched Salitsky; the New York Daily News reported that police issued summonses to the driver for equipment violation but did not report it. had not charged with a crime.)
In the days following Salitsky’s death, his mother, Barbara, contacted the staff of Designing Justice + Designing Spaces and informed them that the family had decided to make memorial contributions to the company. (Click here to donate in memory of Salitsky.)
“We know that Eric has dedicated his work to spaces that bring people together to resolve conflict, so there is a strong connection between his work and our mission,” said firm spokesperson Jean Paul Zapata.
Originally from Worcester, Massachusetts, Salitsky made aliyah with Cohen in 2010. They returned to the United States in 2013 so he could study architecture at the Pratt Institute. After earning his master’s degree, he did consulting work on a multi-faith space at Gallaudet University, the liberal arts college in Washington, DC, for the deaf and hard of hearing. He also recorded a 12-part webinar series on how to design and operate effective multi-faith spaces.
In August 2020, Salitsky joined ESKW/Architects, a midsize Manhattan firm specializing in “institutions that enrich communities,” including schools and health care facilities. “He was really proud to have found a place at ESKW/Architects because in a city of luxury real estate development there aren’t a ton of options for people who want to do community driven design” , said Cohen, the executive director. of Remix Market NYC, a center for creative reuse.
Outside of work, Salitsky has designed laser-cut ketubahs for friends. He was traditional in his practice of Judaism — one of his friends described him as a “neo-Hassid” — but also “as egalitarian and feminist as you can get,” Cohen said, noting he enjoyed lighting Shabbat candles. .
In an interview on the ESKW/Architects website, Salitsky spoke about his fascination with multi-faith spaces.
“[T]They are direct representations of our society at its best – striving for multiculturalism and unity in diversity and rejecting tribalism and us versus them,” he said. “In their most basic definitions, these are fair accommodations for religious minorities, as they are decidedly not centered on Christianity. But on the other hand, they create a place for the creation of spiritual meaning that is also inherently social. By sharing a prayer or meditation space with other groups, you recognize each other’s humanity.
Journalist’s Note: Salitsky, Cohen and I met when we were all living in Tel Aviv. We became friends and regularly prayed and celebrated Shabbat together. Eric was smart, cheerful and a real mensch. May his memory be a blessing.