What do a Jewish synagogue and a Buddhist museum have in common?

For our latest education excursion on October 7th, the Rubin Museum docents and education team visited the Museum at Eldridge Street, a restored synagogue and national historic landmark.  You may be asking yourself “but what do a Jewish synagogue and a Buddhist museum have in common?” While it may seem there is no direct connection between our institutions, there are in fact many parallels and we learned a lot from the Eldridge Street education team during our visit and tour.

There are so many symbols and images included in the synagogue architecture, including the Star of David and the Hands of Cohanim.

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This reminded us of the mudras (gestures) often found in Buddhist art and featured in a wall panel on the museum’s second floor exhibition Gateway to Himalayan Art.

Rubin mudras


We walked up to the altar where we opened the doors to the ark and saw where all the torahs would be kept (today there are no longer torahs stored inside).

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Looking inside this inner sanctum we were reminded of a Buddhist shrine room which houses many objects of worship including important Buddhist texts.

Like our educators at the Rubin Museum, Eldridge Street educators use touch and sensory objects to enhance their tours and help make connections for visitors.  We were able to touch and try on prayer shawls and head coverings and our guide showed us several photographs from the synagogue before its restoration.

In addition to our educational experience, the restored synagogue is absolutely beautiful and the architectural elements, including the monumental stained-glass window by artist Kiki Smith and architect Deborah Gans, are awe-inspiring.

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Many thanks to Judy Greenspan and Sarah Lowenburg for facilitating this amazing experience for our team.  We hope to visit again soon!

To learn more about the Rubin Museum’s Docent program and other volunteering opportunities, please visit our webpage at http://www.rubinmuseum.org/pages/load/31.

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