Immigrants from Eastern Europe escaping the pogroms began to flood New York in the 1880s.  So many of them ended up in the tenements of the Lower East Side t that by the turn of the century it was the densest neighborhood in the world with more than 700 people per acre residing there.  Almost all of them spoke Yiddish and developed a thriving Yiddish culture. The Eldridge Street Synagogue was the first synagogue in America purpose-built by them.  Designed by the Herter Brothers, it established their reputation. By 1925 the combined effect of the Immigration Quota Law and the former population moving away left the ever dwindling congregation with a building that fell into disrepair.   It took nearly 20 years for the building to be rescued, landmarked, carefully restored and reopened as a museum.  Probably the most spectacular aspect of the renovation is the Star Womdpw inspired by the field of stars on the walls that artist Kiki Smith collaborated on with architect Deborah Gans.

Constructed, 1886
Renovation, 2007


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