Our Unique and Proud History

Actors Temple was founded in 1917 as the West Side Hebrew Relief Association. Its leaders were Orthodox Jews who owned shops in the rough-and-tumble district called Hell's Kitchen, at the time one of the world's busiest steamship ports. The founders borrowed a Biblical nickname for God, Ezrath Israel, "the One who assists Israel," as the name for their benevolent little Jewish community center.

Over time a bond formed between the shul and Jews working in another local industry, show business. Talent from vaudeville, musical theater, nightclubs, live television and the dramatic stage made the synagogue a true Actors Temple. Shelley Winters kept the holy days in our sanctuary. Several of the Three Stooges (above) attended services too. The building contains memorials to superstars of yesteryear including Sophie Tucker, who used to headline an annual benefit for Actors Temple at a Broadway theater.

Eventually the nightclubs closed, television went west and vaudeville disappeared. Actors Temple declined along with the Times Square area, but the proud shul remained to anchor the neighborhood. A stroll through our part of midtown today confirms the resurgence of the Theater District and Hell's Kitchen. Block after block has sprouted condominiums, corporate offices, and more theaters. Actors Temple is resurgent too, adding members and staff, while evolving into a diverse congregation where every voice is heard--and respected.

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The Actors' Temple 339 West 47th Street New York, N.Y. 10036
Phone (212) 245-6975 Fax (212) 586-3025 info@theactorstemple.org

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