Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Last Night, on Eldridge Street

Eldridge Street Synagogue #1
Eldridge Street Synaguge

The Eldridge Street Synagogue was built in 1887 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.  It housed a flourishing congregation in its early years, but membership began to dwindle in the 1900's, as immigration patterns shifted and the neighborhood demographics began to change.  The main sanctuary suffered from structural damage, and there were no funds to fix it.  Though a small remnant of people continued to meet in another part of the building, much of the synagogue fell into disuse and disrepair.

In the 1980's, a non-profit organization called the Eldridge Street Project was formed to raise funds for restoring the historic building to its former glory.  A museum was opened on the site to educate people about life and worship on the Lower East Side, and the role that the Eldridge Street had played in helping immigrants transition to life in America.

The museum also hosts lectures and cultural events in the synagogue.  I've been able to attend a few lectures in the past, and I'm on their mailing list to keep apprised of future events.  So imagine (if you will) my surprise, delight, awe, excitement, flabbergastedment (if you will) when I received an email update a few weeks ago about a benefit concert at Eldridge Street.

A benefit concert, starring.......MR. PETER YARROW!

Peter Yarrow Concert
Mr. Peter Yarrow plays to the crowd
That's right - I got to see this fave folk hero twice in one month!

It was a lovely evening and a fun concert.  The woman who introduced Peter said, "He has been wherever he has been needed for every good social cause imaginable."  What a nice thing to have said about yourself, no?  And it's true - Peter Yarrow is not just a folk singer, he's an activist who has led a life-long, global fight for justice.

I was definitely one of the younger people in attendance last night, but that's ok.  I can hang with old people.  We joined our voices together to sing "Jet Plane" (dedicated to Mary), "Day is Done," "This Little Light of Mine," and "Light One Candle."  We clapped our hands to agree that we weren't gonna "Study War No More."  We listened as Peter discussed the good work of Operation Respect, his anti-bullying foundation, and his upcoming trip to Israel to promote the program amongst Israelis and Palestinians.

Music with a message, in a beautifully-restored historic setting.  Not bad for a Monday.

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