web analytics
April 20, 2014 / 20 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance
Sections
Sponsored Post
Spa 1.2 Combining Modern Living in Traditional Jerusalem

A unique and prestigious residential project in now being built in Mekor Haim Street in Jerusalem.



Home » Sections » Arts »

The Synagogue Is Dead; Long Live The Synagogue!:The Eldridge Project At Christie’s

Share Button

Modernity has created a culture of dispensability. Everything comes in a convenient size and a disposable plastic bottle. The problem generally features too few trash receptacles for too many throwaways. As specialization has precluded the knowledge of how to fix, we generally find it much easier to trash and purchase anew. Not surprisingly, we experience our museums as we experience our bagged lunches and our outdated computers.

To most museum-goers, art and architecture co-exist in a timeless continuum. Never changing, the art sits atop the walls, upon the pedestals, or in the columns, always there as eye candy for the viewer. And yet, behind every major museum and every architectural landmark lies a preservation and conservation department. The viewer always sees fresh, new art, but only the really astute observer sees the new coats of paint and the refurbished surfaces and the hours upon hours of painstaking labor to maintain the artifacts.

“There is never any lack of cultural materials needing a conservator’s attention,” reads an article from the website of Washington based non-profit organization, the Washington Conservation Guild (WCG). “Many conditions, natural and man-made, cause things to age and deteriorate. Light, extremes of humidity and temperature, insects, pollutants, accidental damage, and neglect hasten the breakdown of wood, stone, metal, paper, adhesive, leather, fiber, glass, and other materials which make up historic and artistic objects.”

The Eldridge Street Project (ESP) is an endeavor to preserve “the Eldridge Street Synagogue, the first great house of worship built by East European Jews in America, as a site for historical reflection, aesthetic inspiration, and spiritual renewal.” This project presents a massive effort
to modernize an aged space. Like all maintenance work, particularly architectural, the project aims to face-lift while still retaining the original facade. An ESP news bulletin calls it “the soul of the building.” The project includes electrical work, plumbing, an elevator, air conditioning systems and many other technological improvements.

“Next winter, for the first time in more than 50 years, it will be warm in the main sanctuary,” says construction manager Terry Higgins.

Based on the Lower East Side, the Eldridge Street Synagogue was built in 1887 as the first house of worship constructed by Eastern European immigrants. The synagogue carries a tremendous history with it (it was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1996), and also much aesthetic weight.

“The exhibition received steady and enthusiastic attendance and for many Jewish New Yorkers, was a first glimpse at the treasures in their own back yard,” said Howard Zar who promoted the event. “While many have been to Prague, Amsterdam or Venice to visit the great synagogues of Europe, few New Yorkers have been willing to take the number six train
downtown to see the treasures in their own backyard.”

The exhibit that hung at the Christie’s auction house in Rockefeller Plaza last month explored the synagogue’s history as well as its art. The exhibit featured photographs, textiles and a variety of ritual objects from the synagogue’s storage room, including Yiddish-labeled seltzer bottles and New Year greeting cards.

There were two spittoons on display – one featuring an Oriental blue and white design with flowers, and the other design in umber, with a more African look. These spittoons reflect how “Congregation KAJ’s [K'hal Adath Jeshurun] officers made rules of decorum and appointed ushers to enforce them. 

“The ‘Contract for the Sale of Seats’ at Eldridge Street stipulated that individuals purchasing seats ‘must adhere strictly to the rules for maintaining peace and order of the service,’” one reads on the American Jewish Historical Society’s (AJHS) website. “The minute books cite frequent incidents and fines imposed on congregants for interrupting the service, loud talking (especially during the reading of the Torah), late arrivals, unclean language and spitting on the floor. Between 1885 and 1909, the decorum committee purchased dozens of spittoons.” The spittoons are almost crass in their pragmatism, but quite stunning in appearance.

A Russian brass samovar from the late 19th century sits in a corner of the exhibit. A beautifully crafted vessel, it demonstrated the immigrants’ reluctance to abandon their tea drinking habits. Like the spittoons, this vessel proves an exercise in functionalism and aesthetics. It blends tradition, aesthetics and food, revealing a cultural significance entirely lost in modern day coffee pots and the like.

A deep red paroches (ark cover) contains the traditional design of two lions leaning on the Ten Commandments, adorned with a crown: the Crown of the Torah. Beneath, electric green leaves and white flowers complement the reds above, lending the entire piece an Art Nouveau
feel, endemic to the late 19th century.

Finally, a photograph of the interior of the sanctuary prior to the restoration shows a tremendous field of sienna colored pews and exquisite woodwork. The bima is flanked by masterful metalwork with bells, a chandelier and a menorah. The sanctuary reminds us that synagogues can also contain tremendous sculptural forms. In the Eldridge Synagogue, ritual objects happily wed functionality and form in an equal balance.

The Eldridge Street Project recalls the Hashmona’i priests navigating a maze of Grecian statues and digging through the rubble of the Temple to find one pure jug of oil. An important symbol of Diaspora Judaism, the Eldridge Street Synagogue in its restoration marks a point in Jewish history of repair and enhancement. The restoration is especially poignant today, as we hear of synagogues being vandalized in France and elsewhere around the world. The restoration represents a message to the antagonistic community that our service is alive, well,  and beautifully carved, with tremendous detail.

The Eldridge Street Project Exhibit at Christie’s from July 19th to August 5. For more information about the Eldridge Street Project, call (212) 219-0888 or visit www.eldridgestreet.org. For more information on Christie’s, see their website: www.christies.com.

Menachem Wecker edits the Arts and Culture Section of the Yeshiva University Commentator. As an artist, he has trained at the Massachusetts College of Art. Menachem may be contacted at: mwecker@gmail.com.

Share Button

About the Author: Menachem Wecker, who blogs on faith and art for the Houston Chronicle at http://blogs.chron.com/iconia, welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

No Responses to “The Synagogue Is Dead; Long Live The Synagogue!:The Eldridge Project At Christie’s”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
ancient skull discovered Gush Etzion
Hikers Find Human Skull and Bones in Gush Etzion Cave
Latest Sections Stories
Schonfeld-logo1

Regardless of age, parents play an important role in their children’s lives.

Marriage-Relationship-logo

We peel away one layer after the next, our eyes tear up and it becomes harder and harder to see as we get closer to our innermost insecurities and fears.

Gorsky-041814-Torah

Some Mountain Jews believe they are descendents of the Ten Lost Tribes and were exiled to Azerbaijan and Dagestan by Sancheriv.

Baim-041814-Piggy

Yom Tov is about spending time with your family. And while for some families the big once-in-a-lifetime experience is great, for others something low key is the way to go.

A fascinating glimpse into the rich complexity of medieval Jewish life and its contemporary relevance had intriguingly emerged.

Dear Dr. Yael:

My heart is breaking; my husband’s friend has gotten divorced. While this type of situation is always sad, here I do believe it could have been avoided.

The plan’s goal is to provide supportive housing to 200 individuals with disabilities by the year 2020.

Despite being one of the fastest-growing Jewish communities in the U.S. – the estimated Jewish population is 70-80,000 – Las Vegas has long been overlooked by much of the Torah world.

She was followed by the shadows of the Six Million, by the ever so subtle awareness of their vanished presence.

Pesach is so liberating (if you excuse the expression). It’s the only time I can eat anywhere in the house, guilt free! Matzah in bed!

Now all the pain, fear and struggle were over and they were home. Yuli was safe and free, a hero returned to his land and people.

While it would seem from his question that he is being chuzpadik and dismissive, I wonder if its possible, if just maybe, he is a struggling, confused neshama who actually wants to come back to the fold.

I agree with the letter writer that a shadchan should respectfully and graciously accept a negative response to a shidduch offer.

Alternative assessments are an extremely important part of understanding what students know beyond the scope of tests and quizzes.

More Articles from Menachem Wecker
Menachem Wecker

The exhibit, according to a statement from guest curator Michele Waalkes which is posted on the museum website, “examines how faith can inform and inspire artists in their work, whether their work is symbolic, pictorial, or textual in nature. It further explores how present-day artwork can lead audiences to ponder God, religious themes, venerated traditions, or spiritual insights.”

Weck-051812

It all started at an art and education conference at the Yeshiva University Museum. When one of the speakers misidentified a Goya painting at the Frick Collection, both the gentleman sitting next to me and I turned to each other and corrected the error simultaneously.

One of my favorite places when I was growing up in Boston was the used bookstore on Beacon and St. Mary’s streets. Boston Book Annex could play a used bookshop on television; it was dimly lit and cavernous, crawling with cats, and packed with a dizzying array of books, many of which sold three for a dollar. But used bookstores of this sort, however picturesque and inviting, are a relatively modern phenomena. In the Middle Ages, for example, I would never have been able to afford even a single used book unless I had been born into an aristocratic family. (Full disclosure, I was not.)

Jewish medals, several with Hebrew inscriptions and provocative imagery, were among the gems at The European Art Fair (TEFAF) in Maastricht, Netherlands, as I wrote in these pages two weeks ago. Another mini-trend at the fair, which will interest Jewish art aficionados, was an abundance of works by Marc Chagall.

It’s virtually impossible to ignore the financial aspects of TEFAF Maastricht, the annual arts and antiques fair in the historic city about two hours south of Amsterdam. More than 250 dealers from nearly 20 countries sell their wares—which span from Greek and Roman antiquities to contemporary sculptures—in the halls of the Maastricht Exhibition and Congress Centre, whose corridors are adorned by nearly 65,000 tulips.

Max Ferguson’s 1993 painting Katz’s may be the second most iconic representation of the kosher-style delicatessen after the 1989 Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan film, When Harry Met Sally. Ferguson’s photorealistic painting depicts the deli from an interesting perspective, which is simultaneously inviting and hostile—in short, the dichotomy of deli culture.

The whole idea of an artful pushka (tzeddakah or charity box) is almost a tease, if not an outright mockery. Isn’t there something pretty backward about investing time and money in an ornate container to hold alms for the poor?

Located about nine miles north of Madrid, the Palacio Real de El Pardo (Pardo Palace) dates back to the early 15th century. Devastated by a March 13, 1604 fire that claimed many works from its priceless art collection, the Pardo Palace and its vast gardens were used as a hunting ground by the Spanish monarchs.

    Latest Poll

    Now that Kerry's "Peace Talks" are apparently over, are you...?







    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/the-synagogue-is-dead-long-live-the-synagoguethe-eldridge-project-at-christies/2004/10/01/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: