the inside of a church with pews and stained glass windows

Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Synagogue: Inside the Ruins

By: Scott Henson

The long deteriorated Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Synagogue on the Lower East Side has been closed since 2007, but that hasn’t stopped the synagogue from waging a veritable war with itself, as the historic building flip-flopped between courting developers and seeking to strip itself of landmark status under the leadership of Rabbi Mendel Greenbaum.

 

Last year, the synagogue finally withdrew its hardship application following an intense conversation between Rabbi Greenbaum and the leader of the preservation efforts.

Originally built in 1850 as a Baptist church, the Gothic Revival building was purchased by Beth Hamedrash Hagadol—one of the oldest Eastern European congregations in the United States—in 1885 for $45,000. In 1967, the building was granted landmark status, with the Landmarks Commission finding that “Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Synagogue has a special character, special historical and aesthetic interest, and value as part of the development, heritage and cultural characteristics of New York City.”

While efforts to save the gorgeous, 164-year-old building are ongoing,  the fine folks at Bowery Boogie and the Landmarks Conservancy takes us inside the crumbling sanctuary in this series of photographs, revealing a long, proud history that’s faded, though certainly not forgotten.

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