9. The Seat Numbers on the Pews
As a means to raise funds (and also prevent arguments between congregants), the Eldridge Street Synagogue sold the right to sit in numbered seats. The best seats in the house were up front, next to the ark facing the congregants. Prices ranged from a few dollars to several hundred, and a formal contract guided the exchange.
You can see samples of the contracts on display in the Museum at Eldridge Street. These documents reveal that Seat #1 was purchased in 1887 for $1,100 by Isidor Abraham. That would be about $34,000 today!