Eldridge Street Synagogue (Trans-Ethnic & Auto-Orientalist)


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I took a cousin in town for a visit to see the Eldridge Street Synagogue. We went after lunch at Mission Chinese. That wasn’t the original plan, but there we were on Eldridge Street, so I suggested we turn south. The recently restored Eldridge Street Synagogue (2007) was the first of the big Eastern European immigrant synagogues in New York. Already trans-ethnic, the assertion of Jewish difference is “Arabic.” Built in 1887, the synagogue combines Gothic and Moorish architectural details. The grand synagogues in Central Europe, in Berlin and Budapest, would have also done the same, built according to neo-Moorish arabesques and arcs. But it’s odd to see it here, in what were once and still the tenement slums of the Lower East Side. For all the vaulting pretensions to a grand synagogue style, there remains something diminutive about this little place. A modest, little store-front  Buddhist Temple next door serves the local Chinese immigrant community.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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