In the Synagogue
The word synagogue comes from the Greek word for “assembly.” It is a place where Jews gather to pray, learn and find community. The Eldridge Street Synagogue served all these functions for the burgeoning Jewish immigrant community of the Lower East Side. Jewish law does not require a synagogue to have any particular architectural form or decoration, but there are several elements that all synagogue sanctuaries have in common: an ark (Aron Kodesh), where the Torah is kept; a reader’s platform (bimah), where the Torah is read before the congregation; and an eternal light (ner tamid), which signifies God’s continuous presence. The Eldridge Street Synagogue also has a cantor’s stand (amud), where a trained liturgical singer leads the congregation in prayer and a lectern from which the rabbi delivers his sermon. Carved wooden panels and richly embellished fabrics decorate the synagogue and have religious significance as well.