Why is the Eldridge Street Synagogue in Chinatown?

A historic point of entry to immigrants from around the world, the Lower East Side is constantly changing. Today, mostly Asian immigrants live in the neighborhood, however, when the Eldridge Street Synagogue was built in 1886, the Lower East Side was fast becoming one of the most densely populated Jewish neighborhoods in the country. By 1900 the Lower East Side was considered the largest Jewish city in the world.

Is the Museum at Eldridge Street inside the Eldridge Street Synagogue?

Yes! Today, the Museum at Eldridge Street offers cultural programs, exhibits and tours within the Eldridge Street Synagogue and throughout the neighborhood.

What is the relationship between the Museum and the Eldridge Street Project?

The Museum at Eldridge Street was originally called the Eldridge Street Project – a name that reflected its urgent first mission. When the Eldridge Street Project was formed in 1986, the Synagogue was near collapse: a gaping hole in the roof, pigeons flying in and out, dust and debris everywhere.  Recognizing what a tremendous loss it would be if the building were allowed to crumble, the founders of the Eldridge Street Project went to work.  By 1987 they had secured National Historic Landmark designation for the Synagogue and thus began a 20-year, $18.5 million restoration effort.

Is the Synagogue still used for worship?

Yes. On the Sabbath and holidays, congregation members, who have, across the generations, never missed a Sabbath service, worship in the Orthodox tradition of the Synagogue’s founders.

What kind of programs can my class participate in?

Serving as a vital heritage center for people of all backgrounds, the Museum offers the following  interactive and engaging programs:

All of our programs are led by experienced educators and support National and New York State Learning Standards. Programs are customized for students of all ages and abilities.

How long are the tours?

Plan on 75 minutes for synagogue tours and 90 minutes for walking tours.

How can I prepare my students before our visit to the Museum?

For students who may not know what a synagogue is, it will be helpful to explain that like a church or a mosque, a synagogue is a house of worship. The Eldridge Street Synagogue has the distinction of being the first great house of worship built in America by Eastern European Jews.  Then as now, the synagogue offered a place to both pray and socialize.  A destination for lectures, meetings, and activities – in addition to weekly and holiday services – the synagogue’s magnificent, light filled space provided welcome relief from the hubbub of the streets and the dark, cramped tenements where most immigrants lived and worked.

Where can we eat lunch in the neighborhood?

The Museum at Eldridge Street does not have a lunch facility. In nice weather, we recommend bringing a bag lunch and eating in the historic Seward Park on the corner of Canal and Essex Streets.  The Lower East Side Business District offers a list of neighborhood eateries, which you may also want to consider.

To continue our study on immigration, do you recommend other field trips in the area?

Ellis Island and the Lower East Side Tenement Museum offer invaluable and in depth perspectives on the immigrant experience in America.  We also recommend The Museum of Jewish Heritage, and The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA).

To continue our study on religion, do you recommend other field trips in the area?

If you are studying different religious traditions, we recommend touring The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine and the Rubin Museum of Art.


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