Ark (Aron Kodesh)
1887, restored 1986–2007
The ark is the most sacred area of a synagogue because it houses the Torah. It symbolizes the biblical Ark of the Covenant, a chest described in the Book of Exodus that God instructed Moses to build to hold the Ten Commandments. Since worshippers must face Jerusalem as they pray, the ark is located on the synagogue’s eastern wall.
At Eldridge Street, the design of the ark mirrors the shape and decoration the synagogue’s façade with elaborately carved walnut wood taking the place of the stained glass and terra cotta seen on the front of the building. It was built as a small extension to the main building and can be seen protruding beyond the back wall. The Eldridge Street ark can hold 24 Torah scrolls, a reflection of the large size and relative wealth of the congregation in its heyday. When the main sanctuary was closed in the 1950s, and time and the elements took their toll, the ark remained tightly sealed and the scrolls within survived undamaged. The original red velvet that has lined the ark since 1887 is still in good condition today and its doors still slide open with the touch of a finger.