Jewish Heritage Report
Vol. I, Nos. 3-4 / Winter 1997-98
Lower East Side Synagogue Window Destroyed

Lower East Side Synagogue Window Destroyed in Windstorm

A five-story Gothic window was blown out in a windstorm and destroyed at the historic Beth Hamedrash Hagodol synagogue at 60 Norfolk Street on New York's Lower East Side. The wooden frame of the window was rotten and cracked and cannot be salvaged.

The synagogue, built in 1850 as the Norfolk Street Baptist Church, has been home to America's oldest congregation of Russian Jews since they purchased the building in 1885 and moved from their previous quarters in the old Welsh chapel on Allen Street. This synagogue, together with the nearby Bialystoker Synagogue, is a reminder that American synagogues were often housed in former churches, just as many new churches are today housed in former synagogues.

The twin-tower synagogue is built in the Gothic Revival style. Much of the original exterior decoration was removed long ago, but the interior is still remarkable - combining original Gothic-Revival features and Eastern European-inspired paintings of Holy Land landscapes and Biblical scenes on the walls.

The New York Landmarks Conservancy's Endangered Buildings Fund has contributed $2,500 to help pay for a temporary metal window, and they helped obtained approval for the work from the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission which oversees all building work on sites, such as Beth Hamedrash Hagodol, listed as New York City landmarks. The congregation still needs $6,000 to help complete repairs on this important building.

For information on making contributions for the window's repair contact ISJM or Ken Lustbader, Sacred Sites Program, New York Landmarks Conservancy, 141 Fifth Ave., New York, NY, 10010.

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Updated: 23-July-98