The Theater District shul that Red Buttons, Al Jolson, Jack Benny, Alan King, Shelley Winters and other talented performers called their performing spiritual home will be celebrating its 100th anniversary on March 13. But this is no ordinary centennial celebration, as it’s also an affectionate reflection on long-ago difficult class divides in New York’s Jewish communities.
Founded in 1917, the Actors’ Temple—Congregation Ezrath Israel, affectionately called “a jewel of a shul”—houses a theater seating 199 alongside its temple. Welcoming Jews whose profession and colorful working life made them unattractive to more mainstream congregations, the Actors’ Temple provided a stage for development and a refuge from scorn.
This fundraising gala will be held at the storied Friar’s Club. Actress Tovah Feldshuh and comedian Jackie Hoffman, and other honorees, are headlining the event.
At a time when America’s Jewish communities were rife with tension between more-established German Jewish families and Eastern European newcomers—especially recent immigrants in certain professions thought of as crass—The Actors’ Temple established itself as open and welcoming.
The moneys raised from the gala will also benefit the 100th Year Capital Campaign to preserve the temple’s historic building at 339 West 47th St. Constructed in 1923, the Actors’ Temple building is a federally designated national landmark.
Tickets can be purchased at www.theactorstemple.org