Tuesday, April 20, 2010

School Days

What was education like for worshipers at the Eldridge Street Synagogue at the turn of the last century? On my walking tours, we often pass a local landmark: Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem, known in the neighborhood simply as "The Yeshiva." This local Jewish school, chartered in 1907 and still thriving today, very often has visitors asking: Where did the members of the Eldridge Street Synagogue send their children to school? I'll explore this question over the next few weeks, showing some of the different options available to the Jewish community of the Lower East Side at the turn of the last century.

 Today's post is about school at the shul. Did the Eldridge Street congregation form a cheder, a school for boys, as many other local synagogues did?  I found the following in an index of the congregation's Yiddish books, discovered in the basement at the start of the restoration:
During the turn of the century Cong. Adath Yeshurun ran a Hebrew School, for how many years is not clear. This book has on the inside cover Beth Haseifer, Congregation 12-16 Eldridge Street, NY, October 13, 1901. Beth Haseifer, is what Hebrew schools were called. This is a ledger book for the Hebrew School. On page 9 the date seems to be Dec. 1902. It reads "Take out door of cellar . 50." None of the other expenses concern the shul building. This book contains other expenses, etc. of the shul, as well as minutes of the Loan Committee of the shul.
It appears that for at least a year there was indeed a cheder inside the Eldridge Street building. However, it seems that the school was short lived, as this is the only mention of any such school in the entire collection. Why did the school close after only a year? What does that tell us about the members' desire to educate their children in Bible, Talmud and Jewish law? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this matter.

Next time, we'll explore the most popular option for LES children: the local public schools.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Painting in the City

Recently, James Cooper's "Painting in the City" class at the Educational Alliance came to visit Eldridge Street for some watercolor inspiration and exploration. James was kind enough to share some of the students' work with us.
For more work from different sites, check out the class' blog here. I couldn't help but think of this historic photograph while perusing through the class' pictures, taken of a portrait class at the Educational Alliance in1918. Below is a photograph of Cooper's class, 92 years later. Who knows how many generations of artists have been inspired by the Eldridge Street Synagogue and other East Side landmarks?