A renovation 24 years in the making


In an article in last week’s Downtown Express, Aline Reynolds reported on the completion of the renovations at the Eldridge Street Museum and Synagogue, graced by a monumental stained glass window. The renovations began 24 years ago and had to be completed in stages as outside funding became available.

Two years ago, in a story entitled “The shul in the crown,” Jefferson Siegel reported on what was then considered to be the end of renovations – not including the stained glass window.

“After renovations that took almost 20 years and cost $20 million, the Eldridge Street Synagogue reopened to the public last Sunday. The 1887 building has been reborn as the Museum at Eldridge Street,” wrote Siegel.

According to that article, the synagogue was the first to be built for the Eastern European Jewish population of the Lower East Side.

In 2007, the re-opening of the synagogue was marked by a project called “Writing Home — Letters to People’s Ancestors.” An artist named Sheryl Oring typed people’s thoughts about their ancestors using a typewriter from the 1950s.

The new stained glass windows were praised at a gala marking the end of the renovations. The museum’s executive director, Bonnie Dimun, said, “The 1200 pieces of glass started to move – as I sat there, and the hours went by, I was mesmerized at how a piece of glass could be alive,” she said.

Reynolds reported that New Yorker staff writer Adam Gopnik, the gala’s keynote speaker, said “A bunch of Lower East Side merchants decided to come together and build a great big building in honor of their faith.” And Mayor Bloomberg, whose maternal grandmother was born on the Lower East Side, noted that the synagogue has done an “exceptional” job at emphasizing tolerance.