Silent Witnesses - Edith Dreikurs

Every week we feature several artists participating in our current exhibit Silent Witnesses: Synagogues Transformed, Rebuilt, or Left Behind - Artists Respond to History.

This is an art exhibit organized by the Cultural Heritage Artists Project, in collaboration with the Jewish Art Salon, JWalks and the Holocaust Memorial Center. February 22 - April 14 in Metro Detroit. Exhibit info here.

Edith C. Dreikurs

Keeping Al and Sophie Alive:
Saving the Actor's Temple 

In Dreikurs' own words:
As I walked east up 47th Street in Hell’s Kitchen, I saw the small synagogue between row houses and a very large school. A fabric banner that swung in front read, “Actors’ Temple.” I was captured. I knew I had to come back and investigate. Several months later I entered the small shul.  

I had no idea what condition it was in. I met a handyman on the stairs, who explained that he was singlehandedly trying to hold the place together. And from what I could see he had some task. The place was a wreck. The steps were weak and shaky. The stained-glass windows that once must have been beautiful were broken. The walls, where faded photos of actors long gone hung, needed repair. The chapel was teeming with stuff.  But through the mess I could see the faces of Eddie Cantor, a very young Edward G. Robinson, Sophie Tucker and many others. On the first floor were posters for regional theatre and notices for rooms to rent for dance recitals. The Actors’ Temple was stuck in the past. No one seemed to care about it anymore.  I wondered if they could get a minyan together. However, with a dynamic new Rabbi/Cantor, Jill Hausman, who has both a background in the performing arts and progressive religion, they will surely have a chance... with, of course, the community's help.

In this work I weave together the faces of the actors with the magical surroundings of their synagogue, and the arrival, in 1910, of the courageous Orthodox Jews to the rough and tumble waterfront district called Hell's Kitchen. The architecture of the buildings, the glory years of Broadway, and the sparks of tradition resonate through my work.


When Edith Dreikurs was a young art student at Cooper Union College, she always dreamed of being a painter, following in the footsteps of her grandfather, a Guildmaster furniture maker in Austria and Poland.  After graduation, the realities of life set it, and she found herself working in Graphic Design.  In the decades that followed, she won awards for her elegant and imaginative covers at Vintage Books (Random House) and McGraw Hill, but never gave up on the desire to return to painting.  Since 2002 Dreikurs is, at last, a full-time exhibiting painter.  She lives and works in New York City. Website

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