Service at the Synagogue

This 19th century illustration of a service at the Eldridge Street Synagogue is the only image we have of the building’s interior prior to its restoration.

The drawing includes many architectural features unique to synagogues. The two tablets containing the Ten Commandments are above the ark. Just below is the menorah, or candelabra, a symbol of the Canukah holiday. In the foreground is the central platform, or bimah , from which the Torah scroll is read.

Notice the clothing worn by the congregants. Combining ancient tradition with 19th century fashion, many are wearing Talesim, traditional prayer shawls, together with top hats. Congregants are also holding siddurim, or prayer books, as they participate in the service.

Discussion Questions

  • What do you notice?
  • What can you tell about a Jewish worship service by looking at the image? What questions do you have?
  • How is the architecture of the sanctuary similar and different to other spaces you have visited? Compare the windows and furniture depicted in this drawing to those of other buildings.

Classroom Extensions