‘Rediscover’ the Eldridge Street Synagogue Ten Years After Its Restoration

Posted on: September 14th, 2017 at 5:11 am by

Tonight marks the opening of a new exhibition at the Eldridge Street Synagogue. “Rediscovery, Restoration, and Rediscovery: The Eldridge Street Synagogue in Photographs” celebrates the 10th anniversary of the restoration of the photogenic house of worship.

This rehabilitation was no small feat: it took twenty years and $20 million to restore the synagogue, which originally opened its doors in 1887.  Work began in 1987, and continued until 2007. The exhibit walks through the process, showcasing the building’s journey from the 1970s, when the synagogue was in rough shape (holes in the ceiling, stained glass on the floor), through its spectacular two-decade transformation process, and culminating with the addition of contemporary art designed by Kiki Smith and Deborah Gans in 2010.

As previously noted, the Eldridge Street Synagogue had it tough before the proverbial rebirth. Without a substantial congregation, the synagogue itself fell out of active use in the mid-1950s. The main sanctuary was sealed shut, while the ground floor “study” remained operational. Twenty years went by before the grand room was revisited, ruined by water and the elements. However, it wasn’t until 1986 that preservationist Roberta Brandes Gratz founded the Eldridge Street Project to save the institution. Through her guidance, the synagogue obtained landmark status and attracted donations from 18,000 supporters that went toward restoration.

The free opening reception is tonight, from 6-8pm at the Museum at Eldridge Street (12 Eldridge Street,  between Canal and Division Streets). Visitors will have the opportunity to view the show and tour the synagogue to see the results of the restoration.

The exhibit is on view through March 1, 2018; going forward, entrance to the exhibit will be included with museum admission.

 

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