Founded in 1917, Congregation Ezrath Israel was initially built for local Orthodox shopkeepers as the West Side Hebrew Relief Association. It has since evolved into the only synagogue in New York that is also an Off-Broadway theater space.
In the 1920s, it became the synagogue of choice for luminaries in the entertainment industry. Shelly Winters, Milton Berle, Jack Benny, Al Jolson, Henny Youngman, and two of the Three Stooges attended services here. In later years, baseball legend Sandy Koufax was a part of the congregation.
The temple went through a period of decline after the nightclubs closed, the vaudeville scene dried up, and television migrated west. In spite of the precipitous drop in numbers, the congregation held strong and the temple survived. Today, it is flourishing as a post-denominational institution that has attracted a new generation of members.
The sanctuary features stained glass memorials and bronze plaques to honor many of its famous congregants, as well as a photo gallery of headshots that lines the walls of the stairwell.
Know Before You Go
The Actor's Temple was added to the National Register of Historic Places on May 19, 2005.