NYC - Chinatown: Eldridge Street Synagogue
The Eldridge Street Synagogue (Congregation Khal Adath Jeshuron with Anshe Luhz) at 12 Eldridge Street was the first great house of worship built on the Lower East Side by Eastern European Jews. Completed from the plans of the Herter Brothers in 1887, local press marveled at the imposing Moorish-style building with Gothic elements, with its 70-foot-high vaulted ceiling, magnificent stained-glass rose windows, elaborate brass fixtures and hand stenciled walls.
Beloved by the Jewish community for its symbolism of religious freedom and economic opportunity, it was so popular that police were required to control crowds on the High Holy Days. It counted among its members artists Ben Shahn and William Gropper, performers Eddie Cantor, Paul Iuni, and Edward G. Robinson, and scientist Jonas Salk.
Membership dwindled as members relocated away from the area and immigration reform limited the influx of new European Jews. By the 1950’s, the main sanctuary fell into a state of disrepair and without the funds to provide head and maintenance, members chose to worship exclusively in the smaller chapel downstairs. The upstairs sanctuary remained empty for nearly 25 years.
In the late seventies, NYU professor Gerard Wolfe rallied a volunteer organization to rescue the Synagogue. With the aid of public and private funding, the exterior was stabilized in 1984. By the end of 1987, the Eldridge Street Project had raised enough fnds to begin the first phase of restoration. During the 1990’s, the buildings foundation was excavated, reinforced and stabilized; the slate roof was restored and a skylight system was opened and refurbished; windows were sealed; the exterior was repointed; rotted and insect-infested structural m embers were replaced; a staircase was rebuilt; stained glass windows were restored; and the building was wired for the installation of modern systems. Restoration is expected to be complete by October 2007, the 120th anniversary of the Synagogue’s opening.
National Historic Register #80002687