LOWER EAST SIDE — Century-old stained glass and historic photos of Jewish immigrants will soon go on display at the Museum at Eldridge Street, as part of a new permanent exhibit.
The $325,000 exhibit and visitors center is designed to illuminate the 127-year-old Eldridge Street Synagogue's past, before visitors embark on tours or head into the cavernous former sanctuary for events, said Amy Stein-Milford, deputy director of the museum.
"All of [the visitors] appreciate the upstairs, but there was nothing in the space that was providing context for all this," Stein-Milford said.
The synagogue opened in 1887 and served the neighborhood’s Jewish immigrant population for decades before it fell into decline in the early 20th century. Preservation and restoration work began in the late '80s and was completed in 2007.
Today, the synagogue is a national historic landmark. The building now houses the museum and continues to host approximately two-dozen congregants who continue to worship in a downstairs study room, Stein-Milford said.
Thanks to the new upgrades, which transformed space that was previously used for storage, visitors to the museum will now see an information desk when they first walk in, and then they will be able to visit the new permanent exhibit.
Artifacts in the exhibit include a map of Eastern Europe that shows where many of the original congregants came from, the top hats and religious garb they would have worn to services and elements of the building’s original architecture, including pieces of the stained glass.
Three interactive digital displays also delve into the congregation’s immigrant experiences and the neighborhood’s history, as well as Jewish practices and the museum restoration process.
The exhibition also shows how the immigrant community adapted to its new home, Stein-Milford said. While they were proud to be Jewish, she said, “they were also proud to be American.”
“And not only were they maintaining traditions, they were innovating them in America,” she said.
The new visitors center and permanent exhibition will open June 12.
The museum is located at 12 Eldridge St. It is open Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., except on major national and Jewish holidays.