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Eldridge Street Synagogue

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First great synagogue constructed by Eastern European Jews in U.S.

Place Details

Borough : Manhattan
Neighborhood : Chinatown
Institution, What New Yorkers Find Beautiful, Place of Worship

Place Matters Profile

By Amy Stein Milford, the Eldridge St. Project

Chanukah, the Jewish Festival of Light, celebrates the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem. This year, the holiday holds special meaning for one of New York City’s most significant American-Jewish sites--the 1887 Eldridge Street Synagogue. This magnificent Moorish Revival building--the first great house of worship built in America by East European Jews--is now entering the last year of a major restoration overseen by the not-for-profit Eldridge Street Project. The building is certainly a place that matters--for its architectural beauty, spiritual significance and rich immigrant history. Under the auspices of the Eldridge Street Project, the synagogue is being revitalized as a dynamic museum exploring the immigrant experience, historic preservation and Jewish culture. A small congregation has met continuously in the building for Sabbath services since its opening.

Surrounded by Buddhist temples, Chinese restaurants, and tenement apartments, the Eldridge Street Synagogue gives evidence of the East European community that built it more than a century ago.

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Nominations

Roberta Brandes Gratz

This jewel of the Lower East Side evokes the experience of the East European Jewish immigrants who came to America seeking religious freedom. Built in 1887, the Eldridge Street Synagogue is the first great house of worship built in America by East European Jews. The building speaks to people of all cultures who've made their way here, and negotiated traditions from home with modern imperatives. Beyond that, it's a magnificent architectural structure, and undergoing an amazing restoration, to be completed in fall 2007.

Great architecture, rich history, and a spiritual soul make the Eldridge Street Synagogue an unaralleled NYC site. It's a true haven in the City, one that inspires and provides both a tangible and spiritual connection to the past. Now a part of Chinatown, the Eldridge Street Synagogue is portal into an important, but dwindling, layer of Lower East Side history.

An important architectural detail that we almost lost were the rooftop finials with their Stars of David proudly proclaiming it a Jewish house of worship. Thankfully, they were just restored this year, after a 50-year hiatus, under the auspices of the Eldridge Street Project, which is overseeing the synagogue's restoration. Other architectural elements that deserve to be called out include the building's intricate terra cotta carvings and central stained-glass rose window. (October 2006)


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