Synagogues of the Lower East Side

By Sophie Kaufman

This past summer, Museum at Eldridge Street’s Education and Programs Associate Sara Lowenburg set out to make a map of the Lower East Side synagogues for our visitors. She decided to create the map after receiving a constant query from visitors: Beyond the Eldridge Street Synagogue are any Jewish religious and cultural monuments still standing? In an area that is now home to a bustling Chinatown it does not look as though any remnant of the great wave of Jewish migration still exists. But on closer inspection, Sara discovered numerous hidden treasures that represent the Jewish population that once inhabited the teeming streets of the Lower East Side.

Email Sara at slowenburg@eldridgestreet.org for a copy of the “Synagogues of the Lower East Side” map.

Sara utilized Gerard Wolfe’s Synagogues of New York’s Lower East Side: A Retrospective and Contemporary View as her guiding text and based her research on the synagogues of which viewers can still see remnants. She walked around the neighborhood and catalogued each synagogue by taking pictures of their current exteriors. A two-week research process resulted in a detailed and accessible map that covers everything in the neighborhood.

The map of Synagogues of the Lower East Side created by Sara Lowenburg this past summer.

The map of Synagogues of the Lower East Side, created by Sara Lowenburg this past summer.

The map includes a list of active synagogues, highlighted in yellow, and a list of inactive synagogues, all of which boast architectural remnants of their individual histories. The map also includes other important cultural sites in the area, such as Sender Jarmulowsky’s Bank, one of the founders of the Eldridge Street Synagogue, located just around the corner from the museum on 54 Canal St. Also included is Shteibl Row, a block that once accommodated dozens of small storefront synagogues on East Broadway between Clinton and Montgomery.

The exterior of Sender Jarmulowsky’s Bank, located on 54 Canal St.

The exterior of Sender Jarmulowsky’s Bank, located on 54 Canal St.

What was Sara’s favorite discovery while putting together the map? The doorway of the Congregation Shaarai Shomoyim (First Roumanian American Congregation) located on 89 Rivington Street. The synagogue, which dated back to 1857, was demolished in 2007 after the roof of the synagogue caved in, severely damaging the main sanctuary. All that remains is the doorway to the synagogue once dubbed “the Cantor’s Carnegie Hall” for its amazing acoustics.

The doorway of Congregation Shaarai Shomoyim (First Roumanian American Congregation) located 89 Rivington Street. The only remnant of the synagogue after its demolition in 2007.

The doorway of Congregation Shaarai Shomoyim (First Roumanian American Congregation) located 89 Rivington Street. The only remnant of the synagogue after its demolition in 2007.

Another favorite for Sarah is Bnai Tifereth Yerushalaim, which is located just down the street on 87 Eldridge. Sara says, “It is so close, and we all walk by it so often, but if you don’t know what you are looking for, you may not even know it was there!” This is a sentiment that is true for many of the synagogues on Sara’s list, which is why her map makes the perfect companion for anyone exploring this historically rich and culturally layered neighborhood.

Email Sara at slowenburg@eldridgestreet.org for a copy of the “Synagogues of the Lower East Side” map.