Historic Synagogue Gets New Lease On Life
After decades of weather damage and a dwindling congregation saw the Eldridge Street Synagogue fall into disrepair, it's restoration is now almost complete, with a brand new stained glass window set to be unveiled later this week. NY1's Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.
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For more than 20 years, workers have been restoring the Eldridge Street Synagogue inch by inch, a job which now finds them perched 50 feet above the sanctuary. That's where the final pieces of the painstaking process are being put into place -- all 1,000 or more of them. The 16 foot stained glass window designed by artist Kiki Smith is the only entirely new element in the historic landmark, which is now home to the Museum at Eldridge Street.
"We felt that by adding this modern window, but one that was very in keeping with everything around it that responded to the architecture and the history of this building, that we would celebrate the renewal of this building in the 21st century," said Museum at Eldridge Street Deputy Director Amy Stein-Milford.
Opened in 1887, the synagogue was the first great house of worship to be built by Eastern European immigrants in the United States. But as the Jewish population dwindled on the Lower East Side, the building fell into disrepair. To illustrate its history, the new window features the five pointed stars of the American flag radiating from the Star of David -- some of which are etched in translucent glass, others in applied gold leaf.
"The gold leaf is more for effect at night when no light is coming through the window you'll see the stars and they are like the star on the wall surrounding the window which are also gold leaf," said Tom garcia of The Gil Studio.
Garcia also worked on the restoration of the other 70 windows in the synagogue including the elaborate Rose Window on the opposite facade. While the new window uses glass blown the old fashioned way, the pieces are held together not by lead but silicone -- a more modern approach. There's also not one straight line.
"We've never really glazed anything, what I would call like a curved pizza slice," said Femenella & Associates Installer Patrick Baldoni.
Museum directors call the new window the crowning jewel of this major restoration and hope the synagogue will serve as an example of the importance of historic preservation.
"It could have been lost and it was saved and we hope everyone will come and celebrate with us," Stein-Milford said.
If you would like to see the magnificent window in person, the museum will be hosting an open house on Sunday, October 10.
For a complete lineup of events, visit www.eldridgestreet.org.