The Museum at Eldridge Street is located inside the sanctuary of the beautifully restored Eldridge Street Synagogue, which first opened its doors in 1887. This Lower East Side landmark is one of the oldest synagogues found anywhere in the United States. Today, the Museum at Eldridge Street specializes in educating the public about the history of Jewish immigration to America through guided tours and educational exhibitions.
Museum at Eldridge Street History
The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw tens of millions of people leave their homes in Europe and set sail for America in search of new lives. Several million of these individuals were Jewish, and a huge percentage of them settled in New York City on the Lower East Side. As a result, local faith leaders saw the need for a suitable place of worship for this sizable Jewish community, and began building the Eldridge Street Synagogue.
The Eldridge Street Synagogue opened in 1887, and for decades served an important role in the American Jewish community of New York City. However, by the middle of the twentieth century the synagogue’s age was showing and the site fell into disrepair. To shepherd a complete renovation of this historic structure, an organization called the Eldridge Street Project was founded. For twenty years they guided the renovation process, which saw the synagogue declared a National Historic Landmark in 1996, and re-open to the public in 2007 as the Museum at Eldridge Street.
What’s at the Museum at Eldridge Street
The best way to experience the Museum at Eldridge Street is by going on one of their guided tours. Each guided tour of the museum is led by a well-informed docent. These experts will lead you through the facility while sharing the story of the synagogue’s remarkable journey from centerpiece of Jewish life on the Lower East Side to dilapidated near-ruins to modern museum with a powerful educational mission.
You can go on a self-guided tour of the Museum at Eldridge Street any time during its hours of operation, which are typically 10:00am to 5:00pm. However, guided tours are only available each day at 11:00am and 2:00pm, with an additional 1:00pm tour running every Sunday and Monday. It doesn’t cost anything extra to go on the guided tour here.
The Museum at Eldridge Street regularly hosts special temporary exhibitions. By their very nature, these exhibits are always changing, so what you’ll see depends entirely on when you visit. However, recent exhibitions at the museum covered topics and featured materials as diverse as pop art prints of hot-dog stands, the iconic publication the Jewish Daily Forward, and a collection of menorahs from all over the world.
Tips for Visiting the Museum at Eldridge Street
- The Museum at Eldridge Street is included on several money saving tourist passes including the New York Pass and NY Sightseeing Pass.
- The Museum at Eldridge Street is closed on Saturdays.
- The Museum at Eldridge Street offers pay-what-you-wish admission on Mondays and Fridays, which is something to keep in mind if you have some flexibility in your schedule and want to save a good chunk of change.
- An accessible, stair-free entrance can be found on the north side of the building. If you would like to utilize this entrance, look for a gate labeled “accessible entry” and press the doorbell you find there.
- There are a number of ways to arrive at the Museum at Eldridge Street via public transportation, as multiple bus routes and subway lines run in the area. Street parking is also an option, and there are several parking garages nearby.