Last Look: A Star Is Reborn – Reclaiming and reinventing a Jewish legacy.
In its heyday, the eldridge Street Synagogue in New York’s Lower East Side echoed with the footsteps of thousands of worshipers, from the famous—scientist Jonas Salk and artist Ben Shahn were both members—to locals coming for daily services.
Completed in 1887, the Moorish-style building with its minarets, terra-cotta carvings and stained-glass windows shone amid bleak tenements crowded with immigrants. The magnificent structure was a spiritual beacon, a symbol of American freedoms and hopes.
But as most Jews left the city for the suburbs, the building deteriorated. In 1986, a restoration project began, culminating last December in the reopening of the synagogue on the 120th anniversary of the building’s completion. The stars on the 70-foot-high ceiling in the main sanctuary twinkle again, and sunlight shines down through the restored skylight and jewel-colored windows (left). The synagogue, now the Museum at Eldridge Street (www.eldridgestreet.org), has exhibit and performance spaces. Klezmer bands play here, and literary groups are starting to meet.
The synagogue is once more a beacon—to memory and history, arts and culture—welcoming tens of thousands to pass through its grand halls.