10 Jewish sites to visit at Open House New York this weekend


(New York Jewish Week) — If it’s October, it must be time for Open House New York Weekend, an annual event that gives New Yorkers access to hundreds of notable, unnoticed or usually inaccessible locations throughout the five boroughs.

Of course, for an event that, according to the OHNY web site, aims to “to foster discovery and delight” as well as “deepen the public’s understanding of how design can strengthen communities and improve quality of life,” it’s no surprise that a number of Jewish-related tours are included in the lineup. 

While many of the festival’s tours require advanced registration (which has closed, sorry!), fret not: Dozens of both noteworthy and off-the-beaten path sites are designated as “open access” — meaning you can simply show up, unannounced, at the allotted time.

If you’re looking for a taste — or even a full buffet — of Jewish sites featured in this weekend’s festival, look no further. From historic synagogues to in-depth looks at Jewish artists, here’s a roundup of Jewish-related sites that are open to the public this weekend.

1. Central Park Naumburg Bandshell

Central Park, Manhattan

Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Dating to 1923, the Naumburg Bandshell is the only Neoclassical structure within Central Park. The bandshell is the brainchild of merchant, banker and philanthropist Elkan Naumburg, who was born to a Jewish family in Bavaria and pioneered the idea of free classical music for all New Yorkers in 1905. The Naumburg Orchestral Concerts, “the world’s oldest continuous free outdoor classical concert series,” continue to this day.

On Saturday, the bandshell’s backstage area of the will be open to the public; Central Park Conservancy guides will be available to share details on the fascinating history of the landmark structure.

2. Central Synagogue

652 Lexington Avenue

Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Under the leadership of Senior Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, Central Synagogue is home to a robust Reform Jewish congregation in Midtown East. Its imposing Moorish Revival building at the corner of East 55th Street is a New York City landmark: Built in 1872, it was designed by architect Henry Fernbach as a tribute to  Budapest’s Dohány Street Synagogue.

Both self-guided and docent-led tours will be available.

Synagogue pews at the former Eldridge Street Synagogue. (Wikimedia Commons)

3. Eldridge Street Synagogue

12 Eldridge Street

Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

This Lower East Side landmark first opened in 1887 and is the first “great house of worship” opened by Eastern European Jewish immigrants in the U.S. Now home to the Museum at Eldridge Street, the building is “the only remaining marker of the great wave of Jewish migration to the Lower East Side that is open to a broad public.” Self-guided tours are available throughout the day.

4. Hannah Arendt’s Upper West Side Audio Tour

Upper West Side

Saturday and Sunday, all day

Promoted as an Open House New York event, this on-demand audio tour of Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt’s Upper West Side haunts is technically available any time, any day, via the Gesso app. Narrated by Arendt biographer Samantha Rose Hill, this self-guided audio tour gives New Yorkers a glimpse of the legendary intellectual’s life in the neighborhood, where she lived from 1941 until she died in 1975. It includes “the shabby first apartment where she landed almost penniless after fleeing Hitler’s Europe” as well as the “comfortable if indifferently decorated apartment” where she hosted legendary parties, writes New York Jewish Week’s editor Andrew Silow-Carroll.

5. Renee & Chaim Gross Foundation

526 LaGuardia Place

Saturday and Sunday, 11:00 a.m to 4:00 p.m

Famed Jewish American sculptor Chaim Gross — who was born in Galicia and immigrated to New York City in 1921 — and his wife, Renee, converted a Greenwich Village art storage warehouse into a residence and studio in 1963. Now home to The Renee & Chaim Gross Foundation, the building is open to self-guided tours this weekend, which includes a gallery of Gross’s work on the first floor; a temporary exhibition, “Artists and Immigrants” on the second floor and, on the third floor, the family’s former’ living and dining space, which includes hundreds of of pieces from their extensive art collection.

Temple Emanu-El of New York is one of the largest synagogues in the world. (Wikipedia)


6. Temple Emanu-El

1 East 65th Street

Saturday, 12:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Founded in 1845, Temple Emanu-El is home to the oldest Reform Jewish congregation in the city. Its impressive limestone building — designed by Robert D. Kohn, Charles Butler and Clarence Stein — was completed in 1927 and is one of the largest synagogues in the world. The unique design “combines Byzantine and early Romanesque form with Moorish and Art Deco style,” according to the New York Landmarks Conservancy. (Listen to a podcast about its history here.)

On Saturday, visitors are invited to attend Shabbat services from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.; guided tours with a focus on the building’s mosaics by Hildreth Meière — a muralist associated with the Art Deco movement — will take place at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.

7. Tin Pan Alley: Birthplace of Popular Music

1185 Broadway

Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The birthplace of “The Great American Songbook,” Tin Pan Alley is the name given to the concentration of music publishers and songwriters who worked on West 28th St. between Fifth and Sixth Avenues from roughly 1885 to 1930. Many famous Jewish composers were a product of this era, including Irving Berlin, George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin and Yip Harburg.

Five Tin Pan Alley buildings, built between 1839 and 1859, officially became New York City landmarks in 2019. Guided tours on Saturday, limited to 25 people, are first-come, first-served.

Bonus: If you’re not in the city this weekend, or you’re too lazy to get off the couch — hey, no judgment from us! — the following virtual tours are also available:

8. The Actors’ Temple


Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. to 12:45 p.m.

Located in Hell’s Kitchen, the non-denominational Actors’ Temple, also known as Congregation Ezrath Israel, was founded in 1917. In this 45-minute online tour, participants can virtually explore the congregation’s historic 1922 building at 339 West 47th St., which features stained glass windows and plaques “honoring many beloved show business luminaries of yesteryear, including Sophie Tucker, Jack Benny, Joe Franklin and the Friars Club.”

9. Guggenheim Museum: “Alex Katz: Gathering”


Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and Sunday, 11:00 a.m to 12:00 p.m.

In honor of OHNY Weekend, the Guggenheim is offering free live virtual tours of the new exhibit “Alex Katz: Gathering,” an 80-year retrospective of works by the Brooklyn-born Jewish artist that opens on Friday, Oct. 21.

A view of the front of the Tenement Museum. (Wikimedia Commons)

10. Tenement Museum


Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

A Lower East Side “living history” museum, the Tenement Museum recently began a long-planned renovation project to preserve its tenement at 97 Orchard St. This unique OHNY “hard hat” tour offers a virtual peek into the museum’s efforts to preserve, restore and relocate its historic exhibits.

The virtual tour is free, but the museum asks that participants register in advance here.

The 20th Annual Open House New York Weekend runs Friday, Oct. 21 through Sunday, Oct. 23. For more information click here