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Jewish Life at Eastern State


Please note: During our initial phase of reopening, visitors must follow a one-way path through the penitentiary. The restored Alfred W. Fleisher Memorial Synagogue and the companion exhibit on Jewish life at Eastern State Penitentiary will be temporarily inaccessible.

The restored Eastern State synagogue

Eastern State’s synagogue was almost certainly the first built in an American prison. Completed around 1924 and used continuously until the Penitentiary closed in 1971, the space had fallen into near total ruin after the penitentiary’s abandonment. The synagogue marks the first truly restored space in the penitentiary, faithfully returned to its appearance in 1959, with dark wooden benches surrounding the room, a beautiful ark, Reader’s Table, ornate plaster Star of David, and an eternal flame.  A set of workshops next to the synagogue has been converted into The William Portner Memorial Exhibit on Jewish Life at Eastern State Penitentiary


2017 American Aliance of Museums Excellence in Exhibitions Overall Winner