While we usually associate the Upper East Side with private clubs and fancy hotels, you might not know that it’s also home to Temple Emanu-El, the largest Reform temple in the world and one of the largest of any Jewish denomination.
The roots of Temple Emanu-El can be traced back to 1845, when a small group of 33 German-Jewish immigrants held the temple’s first reform service in a second floor loft at the corner of Grand and Clinton Street in the Lower East Side. Throughout the 19th century as more German-Jewish immigrants flowed into New York City, the congregation relocated four more times until it finally settled in its current location at Fifth Avenue and 65th Street in 1929, which it constructed after merging with Temple Beth-El two years earlier.
Still hailed as one of largest and most beautiful synagogues in the world, Temple Emanu-El can seat 2,500 people in its main sanctuary, which measures an impressive 103 feet high and 100 feet wide. Even more impressive is the fact that the synagogue’s architectural steel frame, designed by architectural firm Kohn, Butler & Stein, allows the enormous hall to not contain one single interior supporting pillar. With 60 stained glass windows, a multihued ceiling that’s hand painted and gilded, and the largest synagogue organ in the world featuring over 10,000 pipes, this synagogue is one building that every New Yorker should have on their radar.
Want to learn more about the synagogue? Join the New York Adventure Club this Sunday @ 2pm for a free, private one hour guided tour of the main hall. All you have to do is join the group on Facebook and grab a slot before they’re filled up.