- READER REVIEWS
Nearby Subway Stops
E, M at Lexington Ave.-53rd St.; 4, 5, 6 at 59th St.
- Nearby Parking Lots
A small group of reform-minded Jewish Bohemian immigrants on the Lower East Side formed a congregation in 1846. In 1870, they purchased land on Lexington Avenue, and hired architect Henry Fernbach to design an ornamental sanctuary, based on a Hungarian synagogue, with strong Moorish influences. Following a devastating fire in 1998, Hugh Hardy led a team of architects in painstakingly replicating the structure's original decorative elements. From the street one can see the crenellated stone façade is topped by two 122 ft. sentinel towers with copper spheres. The level of detail inside surpasses the exterior—there are 69 colors painted in intricate patterns on the walls, gold leaf trim on the columns, 12 two-story stained glass windows, a 62 ft. high blue ceiling overlaid with colorful stencil work, carved walnut panel balconies, and twelve chandeliers resembling bouquets of luminescent globes. Central's administrative offices, religious school, library, and a small chapel are housed in a bland building across the street. As an institution they have been aggressive about change, revving up their services with a new pipe organ and choir. While some of the city's most religious would object to the particulars (the pews face west), Director Livia Thompson points out that reformed Judaism is about "informed choice" so Central evaluates and adapts with the times.Sanctuary Tours
Free tours of the Sanctuary are given each Wednesday at 12:45 p.m. Reservations are only necessary for large groups: Call 212-838-5122, ext. 2041.