Shadows at Eldridge Street: Celebrating Groundhog Day!

By Sophie Kaufman

What do Groundhog Day and the Eldridge Street Synagogue have in Common? Both Punxsutawney Phil and the Eldridge Street Synagogue made their big debut in 1887, 127 years ago! According to folklore, when Punxsutawney Phil fully emerges from hibernating in his burrow an early spring season is predicted. If Phil sees his shadow upon emerging and retreats back into his burrow, then six more weeks of winter-like weather will commence. This Sunday, February 2, as we all hold our breaths for an end to the arctic cold front, our Preservation Detectives’ Groundhog Day Scavenger Hunt will discover what light and shadows mean to Eldridge Street!

Groundhog Day in 1961.

Groundhog Day in 1961.

Even on a gloomy February day, the synagogue dazzles as light floats through the stained glass windows, creating colorful shadows that are sure to lure the Punxsutawney Phil in all of us. The 67 stained glass panels scattered over the Synagogue walls are arranged in sets, with rectangular windows along the sides of the sanctuary; arched windows around the balcony and in the stairwells; keyhole windows across the façade; and roundels in the vestibule. Each panel is punctuated by thick cast-glass “jewels.” Although the pattern for all of the windows in each set is identical, artisans chose to alternate the colors in each panel, achieving a remarkably varied but unified effect. Light tinged with red, blue, green, yellow and purple stream into the sanctuary of the synagogue, creating a magical atmosphere that varies depending on what time of day one walks in.

Punxsutawney Phil in front of a stained glass window at Eldridge Street!

Punxsutawney Phil in front of a stained glass window at Eldridge Street!

Preservation Detectives’ Groundhog Day Scavenger Hunt will embrace the shadows of Eldridge Street, with a scavenger hunt for colorful shapes and sizes that tell the historical background of the synagogue. Participants will also make their very own Punxsutawney Phil and a burrow for their groundhog to pop out of!

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