Imagine what it would have felt like for a poor immigrant congregant to leave the grimy streets of the Lower East Side and enter this sanctuary. The space is huge, more than 3,000 square feet. The central dome rises 50 feet above the floor, and there is seating for 750 worshippers. Sunlight streams through dozens of stained glass windows. Painted decoration covers every imaginable surface and polished wood shines. This is the spiritual center of the Eldridge Street Synagogue.
In the 1950s, this sanctuary was closed off when the congregation could no longer afford to maintain it. Two decades later, it was rediscovered by preservationists and others interested in Jewish history and culture, and in the 1980s, the Eldridge Street Project (precursor to the Museum) was founded to oversee its restoration. Today it shines as it did when it first opened in 1887.