Step Away From the Screen on Friday, March 9th

This post was written by intern John Hanson.

The Sabbath is perhaps the most visible tradition of Jewish culture. Even those who don’t know much about the religion or its many traditions probably know the basic idea behind keeping Sabbath. It’s well known that on Saturdays, observant Jews abstain from work, retreat from stress, and surround themselves with family and mindfulness.

The Eldridge Street Synagogue itself has long been a refuge from the routine of the everyday. In fact, the synagogue was built for that very purpose; a place to remove oneself from the moorings of the working world. Since its opening in the heart of the Jewish Lower East Side in 1887, our palatial sanctuary has served as a spiritual sanctuary as well as a social sanctuary. Its soaring dome and vibrant light offered a stark contrast from cramped tenement conditions; ornate detailing and colorful stained glass both exhilarated and soothed. The building provided this not only on the Sabbath, but seven days a week.

Photo: Rick Naramore

As the Museum at Eldridge Street, our building still serves this purpose today. Welcoming over 40,000 visitors a year from around the world, the Eldridge Street Synagogue continues to define what is meant by the word sanctuary. Although most Museum visitors are not seeking refuge from cramped tenement conditions, the building’s beauty and significance is still a welcomed respite from the hectic world. I see the effect the shul has on visitors firsthand, regardless if it is their first or fiftieth visit. And as our lives have evolved, so have Sabbath traditions and ways in which we “unplug” from daily life. Technology makes it easier for stress to creep into more and more aspects of life. To combat that, more intentional “unplugging” becomes a necessary discipline.

So it seemed a natural connection when we first heard about Reboot‘s National Day of Unplugging. Reboot, an organization working to affirm the values of Jewish tradition by contemporary means, has orchestrated a national effort to create sanctuaries in all our lives. This global respite from technology is a contemporary play on a long-held Jewish tradition, one practiced in our Eldridge Street building for generations. So how will the Museum participate? Join us Friday, March 9th for a full day of unplugging. Admission will be pay-what-you-wish, so there’s no barrier to your sanctuary. Handy cell phone “sleeping bags” provided by Reboot, will be available at the door. Slip your device inside and breathe a sigh of relief! At least while you’re in our building, you can let the stress of the everyday melt away.

Join us for a day of contemplation and beauty, free from the confines of technology. Some quiet time in our exquisite sanctuary will set your mind right and have you ready to more deeply connect with community, history, family, friends, and yourself.

John Hanson is a student in the Bachelors-Masters Cohort at Parsons School of Design and Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts at The New School. He is sophomore studying art history, architecture, and design.

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