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Thanks to an Anglo-Catholic education, I grew up in chapels and churches – and although I don’t go to services anymore, I still love exploring those buildings. Today I expanded my religious education with a visit to a synagogue – and admired it in much the same way.

I don’t know if I expected many differences, but I was actually struck by how similar the Eldridge Street Synagogue in Chinatown was to many of the churches I grew up attending. There were gorgeous wooden pews, a central altar-like podium, brightly-colored stained-glass windows, stone floors and hushed voices.P1100470 P1100476 P1100467 P1100469 P1100466 P1100463 P1100460

Of course the motifs on display were very different and the patterns and scenes in the windows were a little more cheery than those I grew up around. And it also had one stunning addition unlike anything I’ve seen before: A gorgeous bright blue window dotted with stars that immediately drew your eye upwards.P1100471 P1100472

Up some creaky stairs, there was a small exhibition detailing the restoration project of the synagogue, which is now a National Historic Landmark. When it was built in 1887, it was one of the first synagogues built in the U.S. by Eastern European Jews, but numbers began to dwindle in the 1920s when Jewish families began moving elsewhere.

By the 1950s, it had a leaky roof and was put out of service – but in the 80s, a local community group promised to repair the damage andΒ historians and craftsmen went to painstaking efforts to recreate the processes and finishes that had been put in place a century earlier.

After $20 million, it re-opened its doors in 2007 and continues to serve as an Orthodox synagogue, as well as a museum and education center.

Peeking out to Chinatown

Peeking out to Chinatown

P1100475The exhibition was pretty interesting – but it didn’t keep my attention as much as the building and that gorgeous blue window. The place was just stunning.

The synagogue is open until 5pm between Sundays and Thursdays, and I’d encourage you to check it out if you’re around Canal Street. It’s beautiful and offers rare solace from the hubbub of Chinatown.

Back downstairs

Back downstairs

View from the ground floor

View from the ground floor

And back outside to the noise P1100484