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The Actor’s Temple Theatre, founded originally as a Jewish congregation assembly hall in 1917, is located in the in the Midtown West business district of Manhattan, also referred to as Hell’s Kitchen. The synagogue, originally staged for religious worship, is referred to officially as Congregation Ezrath Israel and was referred to in the early days as “the West Side Hebrew Relief Association”. Since 1923, located at 339 West 47th Street, the Actor’s Temple was very popular among the New York City entertainment scene, with services attended regularly by performers of the theater, television, comedy and nightclub industry.
The temple experienced significant decline in attendance after World War II while many local actors and actresses moved out of New York City and headed west to California, changing the dynamics of the Hell’s Kitchen. Attendance fell by almost 90%, roughly from 300 members down to a meager 30. After years of inadequate support, the temple decided in 2005 to offer rehearsal space to the choreographers and performers of New Dance Group, a performing arts organization based in New York City. This was the beginning of the temple’s transition from a place of worship to a more diversified and all inclusive mixture of creativity and spirituality oriented towards community, literary arts and self-expression. The Actor’s Temple is in existence today as a center for performing arts, education and prayer, with the Actor’s Temple Theater operated separately by a production company, showcasing a blended mixture of performances of spirituality, expression and creativity.