Synagogue Restored in Historic Philadelphia Prison

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Jewish prisoners at Philadelphia’s notorious Eastern State Penitentiary in the mid-20th century had one gleam of light in their hard lives.

Within the prison walls stood a synagogue, a tiny room created from exercise yards by volunteers from Philadelphia’s Jewish community who believed that Jewish convicts should be able to practice their faith, regardless of their crimes.

The synagogue was built in 1924 and was used until the prison closed in 1970. It was then abandoned and suffered severe water damage that rotted the timbers of the ark and benches and destroyed plasterwork, including a large Star of David affixed to the ceiling.

Now the synagogue, the Alfred W. Fleisher Memorial Synagogue, has been restored as a vital part of the 142-year history of the prison, which is a National Historic Landmark and is open to the public.

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Thaddeus Brodrick Noble - 4/6/2009

Refreshing to read about someone in the Jewish community doing something positive in the way of restoration instead of their usual habit of destroying things.