Why We Love It: Entering the synagogue is like stepping back in time. Originally built in 1887 by Jewish immigrants from Easter Europe, the synagogue was a huge part of daily life for those living and worshipping on the Lower East Side. Although the synagogue fell into steep disrepair by the 1960s, a huge effort was made (to the tune of $20 million) by the 1980 to restore the synagogue to its former glory. The building was also modernized ever so slightly so that it could serve as a new house of worship and a museum about Jewish immigrant life at the turn of the 20th century.
The rose-shaped stained glass window pictured above was always a centerpiece of the synagogue's main sanctuary but the 2010 restoration by artist Kiki Smith and architect Deborah Gans gave it a shining new look.
What Ages: All ages! Of course, babies and toddlers might not get the historical significance but elementary school children totally will. The synagogue also has a Preservation Detectives program, which changes each month, and lets kids climb stairs, count stars and even peek into the walls. If you're bringing a stroller, that's ok too as the synagogue has an elevator. But we suggest carrying baby while you tour the sanctuary.
What to See: Tours are offered from Sunday through Thursday at 10 a.m, 11 a.m., 12 p.m, 1 p.m., 2 p.m, 3 p.m and 4 p.m. The tours last an hour long. You can also tour the place on your own. Be sure to check out the exhibitions on the lower level which are rotating but are usually centered around themes of Jewish immigrant life. The museum has also put together a list of other historic places in the neighborhood. And don't forget, you're in the heart of Chinatown and there's so much to see and do and eat there!
When to Go: The museum is closed on Saturdays and all major Jewish holidays but other than that, any time is a good time. Mondays are also Pay What You Wish admission days.
How Much Does It Cost?: Typically, admission is $14 for adults; $10 for students and seniors; and $8 for kids 5-17. Kids under 5 are free. As we said above, Mondays are Pay What You Wish admission days.
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