Metal box built into synagogue wall
Tzedakah, the Hebrew word for charity, is considered a social responsibility that promotes acts of justice. This metal box with six coin slots is built into the wall in the lower level of the synagogue and was used for collecting Tzedakah donations for six distinct charities. It actually has 2 sides: one for men (shown here) and another on the other side of the wall for women. Congregants could choose between six charities: Meyer Bal-ha-Nes, supporting Jewish settlements in Palestine; Tikkun Seforim, a fund for the preservation and repair of the congregation’s holy books; donations for Yesiva Etz Chaim, the first Jewish school of higher learning in America which was established on the Lower East Side in 1886 and evolved into Yeshiva University; Hazkarat Nishamot, collecting contributions in the name of those who have passed away, which were believed to dignify and elevate their souls; Bedek Ha-Bayis, for general repairs and maintenance of the building; and finally Tzedakah Gedolah, a fund supporting a network of Jewish charitable institutions. There were just six slots because money may not be handled on the Sabbath. The choice of these charities sheds light on the activities the congregants thought were worthy of their hard-earned coins.