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The Eldridge Street Synagogue, A Place that Matters

eldridge street synagogue mural interiorWhen the Eldridge Street Synagogue opened in 1887, the Lower East Side was a very different place than it is today. These days if you visit the synagogue, you will find it seemingly out of place in the center of Chinatown. However, in the late 19th Century, the Lower East Side was brimming with a community of Eastern European immigrants who flooded the Synagogue every year during the high holidays. With a congregation that topped 1,000 members, services would bring together affluent bankers and entrepreneurs with working class fishmongers and garment workers. But as the neighborhood changed, the Synagogue gradually fell into disuse until the 1950s – 70s when only its basement chapel was utilized. This changed when the sanctuary was rediscovered in the late 1970s by Gerard Wolfe, an NYU Professor who was at the time writing a book on the Synagogues of the Lower East Side. The building’s deteriorating condition led in1986 to the founding of The Eldridge Street Project to preserve the Eldridge Street Synagogue. Though in its final stages, work continues to this day to restore the building to its former architectural beauty. If the project is completed on schedule, visitors will be able to enjoy a fully refurbished Eldridge Street Synagogue in time for its 120th Anniversary in the fall of 2007. Though much has changed around it, the Eldridge Street Synagogue stands as a reminder of a vibrant time in the history of the Lower East Side. To read more about The Eldridge Street Synagogue, click here to visit the Census of Place that Matter. Or click here to add your thoughts to the Census about why The Eldridge Street Synagogue is a Place that Matters. Browse the rest of the Census — or add your own Place That Matters — here.