8. The Eldridge Street Synagogue Museum has a 6,000 pound, stained-glass rose window
The Eldridge Street Synagogue, located at 12 Eldridge Street, was built in 1887 — becoming the first synagogue in the United States purposely built by Jewish Eastern European immigrants. It served as a spiritual home for immigrants from Russia, Poland, Lithuania, and other Eastern European countries — allowing them to proudly display their heritage and faith. For the following fifty years, the synagogue flourished, hiring world-renowned cantors to sing. However, after the introduction of the 1924 Immigrant Quota Laws and an exodus of the Jewish community into the outer boroughs, the synagogue began to decline.
During the 1940s, the congregation was forced to relocate to the synagogue’s lower level chapel after being unable to afford to take care of the grand main sanctuary, which was left to deteriorate until it was rediscovered in 1986. Emergency repairs were conducted to restore it and the building was designated a New York City landmark in 1996. After 20 years of restoration, the synagogue was rededicated as the Museum at Eldridge Street in December 2007.
In 2010, the synagogue’s eastern window was replaced with a 6,000 pound stained-glass rose window designed by artist Kiki Smith and architect Deborah Gans. The stunning window features a traditional six-pointed Star of David, with a collection of five-pointed stars spread across a blue backdrop. Currently, it is the only 21st century addition to the structure, Though the Eldridge Street Synagogue is surrounded today by the bustling Chinatown community, it continues to embody its Eastern European heritage, offering tours, school programs, concerts, talks, and festivals in celebration of the building’s history.