The Actors' Temple

The Actors' Temple, officially named Congregation Ezrath Israel, is a synagogue founded in 1917 in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, originally for the Orthodox shopkeepers in the area. Located at 339 West 47th Street since 1923, the temple was originally dubbed "The West Side Hebrew Relief Association",[2] and it was the synagogue of choice for the entertainment industry. Many vaudeville, musical theater, television, and nightclub performers attended services there, including Sophie Tucker, Shelley Winters, Milton Berle, Al Jolson, Jack Benny, Joe E. Lewis, Edward G. Robinson, as well as several of the Three Stooges.[3] Bernard Birstein, an aspiring actor himself, was the first rabbi.[4]

Actors' Temple
May 2007
Location339 W. 47th St., Hell's Kitchen, New York, New York
Coordinates40.761167°N 73.989139°W / 40.761167; -73.989139
Built1925
ArchitectSydney F. Oppenheimer
Architectural styleClassical Revival
NRHP reference #05000445[1]
Added to NRHPMay 19, 2005

The temple declined after World War II as actors moved to California and the neighborhood changed, going from 300 members to approximately 30 in 2009.[3] In 2005, in order to bring in additional income, the temple started renting out dance rehearsal space to New Dance Group as well as temporarily transforming into a theatre for plays.[5] However, even with this additional income, the $120,000 annual operating costs used up the $2 million endowment by 2009.[3] Despite these challenges, the temple continues to operate. In fact, the temple had a large fundraising program in 2011. In addition, the congregation has grown to 120 dues-paying members.[6] The Temple was once Orthodox, transitioned to conservative, and is now a non-denominational synagogue.[4]

References

  1. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  2. Actors Temple History Archived 2007-09-28 at the Wayback Machine
  3. Dworhin, Caroline H. (April 17, 2009). "Hells Kitchen: Plot Twist at the Actors' Temple". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-19.
  4. "The Actors' Temple: Inside the synagogue where Broadway's biggest stars used to pray". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 2019-11-12. Retrieved 2019-11-13.
  5. Robertson, Campbell (November 29, 2006). "Off Broadway and Nearer to God: It's Curtain Time at a Synagogue". New York Times. Retrieved 2009-04-19.
  6. www.nytimes.com

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