The Eldridge Street Synagogue (1887) was the first grand synagogue built in the United States by Eastern European Jews. If other Lower East Side synagogues predate it—the Bialystock (1826), the Anshe Chesed (1849) and the structure that now houses the Angel Orensanz Foundation Center (1849)—none approach Eldridge Street for sheer architectural extravagance. Its façade mixes Moorish features with a Gothic wheel window reminiscent of the great European cathedrals. The main sanctuary has a 70-foot-high vaulted ceiling with stained glass windows, elaborate brass fixtures and hand-stenciled walls.
The synagogue’s peak use was at the beginning of the 20th century. Then more than 1,000 worshippers regularly observed the High Holidays. By the 1930s, Eldridge Street steadily began to lose worshippers to other parts of the city and the synagogue gradually fell into disrepair.
In the 1980s, a preservation campaign began which has restored Eldridge Street to its original state and also established a program of public talks and concerts which help keep alive the 19th-century building and the ancient traditions it embodies.
Lost and Found Music seeks to reclaim musical works at risk of disappearing, by presenting and interpreting them for a general audience. The sanctuary’s fine acoustics continue to accommodate some of the music world’s leading performers, from Jewish singers of cantorial and Yiddish melodies to klezmer and classical musicians.
The Garden Cafeteria Literary Series was named for the famed Lower East Side eatery which was once a hotbed of literary and political discourse. Readings, lectures and discussions feature writers whose work touches upon themes relevant to Eldridge Street—tales of immigration, spiritual journeys, the tension between cultural legacies and modern life and the continuity of family and faith.
The Building and Rebuilding lecture series offers perspectives on architectural and historic preservation of interest to both specialists and the general public. The sessions are led by guest speakers including members of the Eldridge Street Project’s own restoration team.
Readings and lectures feature leading writers, scholars and performers addressing similar themes. Concerts reflect Eastern European traditions and include both historical works and contemporary compositions influenced by them. The extraordinary architecture and dramatic interior provide a unique setting for site-specific multimedia, sound, visual and sculptural art installations by established and emerging artists.
Recognizing the transformation of Eldridge Street's neighborhood over the past century, the Egg Rolls & Egg Creams festival celebrates Chinese and Jewish cultural traditions.
Programs for Seniors
Docents in the Visiting Docents program go to senior centers, hospices and homes for the aged to provide a one-hour slide lecture about the museum.
WATCH NOW NYC-ARTS Profile: Executive Director of the Museum at Eldridge Street Bonnie Dimun tells the story of the restoration of the Eldridge Street Synagogue on the Lower East Side.
The Preservation Detectives family program, offered every Sunday at 1 pm, presents the story of the 1887 Eldridge Street Synagogue on a fun-filled tour combining architecture, history and Jewish culture. Themes change every month and include an art-making activity.
The Building & Rebuilding series offers perspectives on architectural and historic preservation of interest to both specialists and the general public. The sessions are led by distinguished guest speakers, including members of the Eldridge Street Project's own restoration team.
Lost and Found Music seeks to “reclaim” musical works at risk of disappearing by presenting and interpreting them for a general audience. The sanctuary's fine acoustics continue to accommodate some of the Jewish music world's leading performers, from singers of cantorial and Yiddish melodies to klezmer and classical musicians.
The Garden Cafeteria Literary Series is named for the famed Lower East Side eatery which was once a hotbed of literary and political discourse, readings, lectures and discussions feature writers whose work touches on themes relevant to Eldridge Street—tales of immigration, spiritual journeys, the tension between cultural legacies and modern life and the continuity of family and faith.
Other significant events include Gates of Light, a film about the immigrant community that founded the synagogue and the suceeding generations who sustained it; Positively Purim, a celebration of that Jewish holiday through stories, crafts and foods; the Pre-Passover Nosh & Stroll, a docent-led walking tour of local historical places, architecture and cuisine; screenings of films such as Green Fields and other masterpieces of Yiddish cinema; slide lectures on the building’s elaborate decorative arts; concerts such as the Accordion Fest celebrating an instrument so beloved by the cultures of the Lower East Side.
Education programs for grades K to 12 promote an awareness of cultural diversity and inter-group understanding, and introduce Jewish culture, immigration history, architecture and historic preservation. All programs fulfill New York City and State curriculum mandates in the areas of social studies, language and the visual arts.
What do buildings tell us about a community's values and history?
Learn how to uncover a building's story through its design. Students examine the majestic architecture of the Eldridge Street Synagogue and investigate its paint patterns, stained glass windows, and Victorian lighting. As students explore this century-old landmark, they gain a basic architectural vocabulary and the tools to discover history wherever they look.
How do you pack your life in a suitcase?
Visit the 19th-century Lower East Side through a high-tech interactive exhibit and delve into the Eastern European immigrant experience. This exploration of the Eldridge Street Synagogue uses the particular story of its immigrant founders to highlight the challenges and opportunities that all immigrants face when bringing traditions to a new place.
Jewish Life & Holidays
What are the core traditions of the Jewish religion?
Explore the Eldridge Street Synagogue, handle ritual objects, and hear Hebrew while learning about Jewish beliefs and traditions. Special programs focusing on Hanukah, Passover, Bar Mitzvah, Torah, and Sabbath present the richness of these rituals through music, food, games, and dramatic play.
Lower East Side Walking Tour
What clues does a neighborhood hold to its past?
Discover the history of the Lower East Side gateway neighborhood. Walk the streets and learn to “read” landmarks while investigating the social, political and cultural past. Tour routes are custom-designed and can include: Seward Park and Library, Jarmulowsky's Bank, Jewish Daily Forward Building, Educational Alliance, PS 42, tenement buildings and pickle vendors.
Contact us about multi-visit programs, including a combination of tours in the museum, around the Lower East Side, and in your classroom. The education staff welcomes the opportunity to plan special programs to support and enhance your classroom learning.
Professional development workshops at Eldridge Street teach how to incorporate walking tours and oral history into a curriculum, as well as techniques on how to teach with primary sources. Workshops are customized to support a teacher's schedule, learning interests and classroom study.