1887, rebuilt 1986-2007
In an Orthodox synagogue, women attending services sit separately
from men. At Eldridge Street, this meant mounting this narrow, winding
staircase. Women, often with children in tow, climbed the 30 steps to a
balcony high above the sanctuary floor. Here they could hear the
proceedings below, keep an eye on the young ones, and not be a
distraction to the men of the congregation.
Originally, there were two staircases, one at each end of the
vestibule, reached by the “women’s entrances” at the far sides of the
building’s entryway. By the time the synagogue restoration began, the
northern staircase had collapsed. The southern stairs were deteriorated
as well. An early visitor recalled steps giving way below his feet.
During the restoration, as the southern staircase was taken apart to
be reinforced and rebuilt, each piece was tagged so that it would be
returned to its proper place. Missing pieces were salvaged from its
fallen twin. Once the remains of the northern staircase were removed, an
elevator was installed in its place.