This photo shows crowds of Jewish people spilling out of a synagogue on Rivington Street after religious services. The sign on the front of the building shows Hebrew letters, which reflects the fact that most Jewish people spoke Yiddish in the early 1900s when the picture was taken. The Lower East Side at that time was home to hundreds of synagogues, the houses of worship where Jewish people pray and celebrate holidays. While some synagogues were converted storefronts or repurposed churches, others, like the Eldridge Street Synagogue (which is, today, the Museum at Eldridge Street) were built as synagogues. No matter what kind of synagogue they attended, it was exciting for Jewish immigrants who had faced religious persecution in Eastern Europe to be able to openly express their religious beliefs in America. The people leaving this service are dressed up: most men are wearing suits and some of the women are wearing elaborate hats with feathers. Why all the splendor? The photo was taken on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year’s celebration.
More to Think About….
- How do you think it felt to Jewish immigrants to be able to express their religious beliefs openly?
- In your own religious or cultural traditions, how do you use clothing to express yourself?