How the Museum at Eldridge Street is Faring in the Time of COVID-19

Posted on: May 19th, 2020 at 5:08 am by

Amid nationwide closures, the Museum at Eldridge Street (aka the Eldridge Street Synagogue) is swinging its focus, by expanding its offerings to a global audience through virtual programming. The historic museum representing Jewish New York has, like so many others, been closed to foot traffic since stay-at-home orders were first mandated.

One of the main challenges the museum has faced during extended COVID-19 closures is creating new ways to engage with their audience. And creating similar in-person experiences, albeit through digital means.

“We’re hard at work translating our school programs to online curriculum, providing new content for families in lieu of in-person events, and creating new behind-the-scenes and promotion content for things like our exhibitions that are now on hold as we’re closed,” Chelsea Dowell, Director of Public Engagement recently told us.

The silver lining to this is the museum is now able to think about their programming on a global scale. “We’ve been hosting virtual sessions of our popular adult education classes,” Dowell explains. “It’s exciting to see that, now, more people can join these classes than when they took place at the museum. Families in California are now doing the activities in our family newsletters. And when we livestream concerts on Monday evenings, people are tuning in from around the world, and connecting with each other in the comments.”

They’ve even been able to transition exhibition openings to a digital platform. “We livestreamed a tour with artist Debra Olin, from her studio in Massachusetts. An exhibition of her work was set to open on April 30, and we wanted to highlight her work in some way, even though the opening is now postponed. So we conducted a live interview with Debra and our exhibition curator, and took questions from the audience that was tuning in. We’ve never done anything like that before!”

As for the popular annual Egg Rolls, Egg Creams, and Empanadas festival, Dowell assures us that, though the in-person event is on hold, they are currently brainstorming virtual programming to take its place. Indeed, the museum doesn’t want to miss the opportunity to celebrate the communities and cultures that the festival represents.

“We urge all New Yorkers to support their local communities right now in whatever way they can. This is such a tough time for so many people right now – we hope the Museum at Eldridge Street can offer a bit of peace, or joy, or connection to people through their screens. And we’re looking forward to being able to provide that sense of peace and permanence in person again someday.”

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