The Museum at Eldridge Street is housed in the Eldridge Street Synagogue, a magnificent National Historic Landmark that has been meticulously restored. Opened in 1887, the synagogue is the first great house of worship built in America by Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe. It is the only remaining marker of the great wave of Jewish migration and settlement on the Lower East Side that is open to a broad public. Exhibits, tours, cultural events and educational programs tell the story of Jewish immigrant life at the turn of the last century, explore architecture and historic preservation, inspire reflection on cultural continuity, and foster collaboration and exchange between people of all faiths, heritages and interests.
Yiddish signs, Jewish ritual objects, historic photographs, archival documents, artifacts from the building’s restoration, and excerpts from the Museum’s collection of oral histories form the heart of the Museum’s permanent exhibition. The Museum’s interactive displays on immigrant history, Jewish practice and historic preservation were the recipient of the American Association of Museum’s Gold Award for Interactive Installation. The upstairs Women’s Gallery is home to an exhibit on the synagogue restoration. Our Family History Center features a display of historic Lower East Side photographs, and a small rotating exhibit relating to the stories of families with connections to the Lower East Side. A monumental stained-glass window by artist Kiki Smith and architect Deborah Gans is an important piece of contemporary sacred art, and the only 21st century addition to this historic landmark.
The Eldridge Street Synagogue is a National Historic Landmark – one of only two synagogues and ten sacred sites so designated in New York City. The Museum’s restoration, conducted with a “combination of rigor and affection” in the words of New Yorker architectural critic Paul Goldberger, received a National Preservation Honor Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the New York State Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation’s Project Achievement Award, along with numerous other preservation honors. First Lady Michelle Obama designated the Museum’s docents a national treasure with a Preserve America Stewards Award.
A Synagogue in Chinatown
The Museum shares its historic home with a small group of worshippers who continue to pray on the Sabbath and Jewish holidays, maintaining the Orthodox traditions of the Eldridge Street Synagogue’s founders. Once the heart of the Jewish Lower East Side, the Eldridge Street Synagogue’s neighborhood is now a part of a vibrant Chinatown. The Museum honors its place in this continuing immigrant context, welcoming visitors of all faiths and cultural backgrounds. In June the Museum presents its annual Egg Rolls, Egg Creams and Empanadas Festival, a celebration of the Jewish, Chinese and Puerto Rican communities of the neighborhood. Thousands of people join us for this annual block party which features the music, folk arts, food and crafts of the Lower East Side’s diverse inhabitants. Today, the Museum at Eldridge Street stands as a dazzling addition to our nation’s cultural, historic and architectural landscape.
Mission and Value Statement
The Museum at Eldridge Street, a non-sectarian cultural organization in Lower Manhattan, was founded with a mission to restore and interpret its home, the historic 1887 Eldridge Street Synagogue, and serve people of all backgrounds with educational and cultural programs inspired by the landmark building and its gateway Lower East Side neighborhood.
The Eldridge Street Synagogue is a magnificent national historic landmark built by immigrants from Eastern Europe. For the Jewish immigrant of a century ago, the synagogue was a tangible monument to the religious freedom and economic opportunity afforded by their new land. Today, it is a powerful symbol of the historical and cultural contributions brought to America by generations of immigrants.
At the Museum at Eldridge Street:
We welcome people of all faiths and cultures.
We teach and reinforce tolerance.
We believe diversity is our strength.
We believe openness and exchange makes us stronger.
We celebrate the special role that the Eldridge Street Synagogue plays in making Jewish life and immigrant culture available to all visitors, whatever their background.