Jewish Immigrations, Lower East Side, Manhattan, New York, 19th century, 20th century, Sanford Sternlicht, Paul Buhle, Hasia Diner, Arcadius Kahan, Andrew Dolkart, Moses Rischin
The Lower East Side in Manhattan, New York, is symbolic of American Jewry. Since the mid 1800's, sometimes earlier, European Jews emigrated from various countries and settled in New York. Their most common destination was the Lower East Side in Manhattan, and since then this area is well known for having a rich Jewish heritage and history. The Jews that settled in this part of New York often arrived in waves. After the European revolts of 1848, many Jews, as well as other immigrant groups, traveled to the United States. The biggest wave of Jews arrived from the late 1800's to the early 1900's: "From 1881 to 1924, 1.5 million Jews left the shtetlach (villages) and cities of Eastern Europe. Almost all came to the United States, most winding up in New York City. By 1900, the Lower East Side was not only an urban region of astonishing ethnic diversity but also the most densely populated place in the world. These waves of Jewish immigrants created the rich cultural heritage and helped develop the Lower East Side with various new businesses, literary ideas, and religious faiths."
[...] Although, each of these had significant numbers of Jewish immigrants, none compared in population and density to the Lower East Side. Moreover, Diner explains how the high population densities of this regions forced Jews to live their lives in public., This she claims, the fact that transformed the very streets of the Lower East Side into a vibrant arena of cultural expression, fusion, and creativity. memory of the Lower East Side derived much of its power,” she writes, “from the physical concentration of Jews on those streets.” Heavy population density supported vast networks of Jewish institutions—synagogues, newspapers, theaters, unions, and restaurants—unmatched anywhere in the United States. The greatest influxes of newcomers were Russian, Lithuanian, Polish, Romanian, Hungarian, and Galician Jews. The immigrant Jews, including minorities from Turkey, Greece, and Syria, made up about half the neighborhood's residents. [...]
[...] The cultural influence of the Lower East Side on the national scale has a lot to do with how many perceived immigration to American society. From the start of immigrants into the lower east side in the 1820s, the area has provided Americans with the basis for their most powerful stereotypes and enduring myths about immigration, race, and multiculturalism in American life. Since then the two dominant views of immigration were: one condemning immigration as supreme threat to American society, politics, and culture” and another depicting immigration as the wellspring of national strength, vibrancy, and advancement. [...]
[...] Many turn-of-the-century Jewish immigrants made popular movies from the 1920s on that captured and promoted values of the dominant culture. Buhle explains that phenomenon: Jewish issues were not going to surface all that much in films made for the goyische masses" And it was the Jew Abel Meeropol who in 1945 redefined Americanism as multiculturalism in the AcademyAward-winning short film whose title song, "The House I Live was sung by Frank Sinatra. The Jews who arrived from Europe during these waves were usually impoverished. [...]
[...] The image we have of the Lower East Side today is radically different from what it looked like during the early 1900's. At that time, almost all the buildings were tenements with no running water and very limited living space. Recent immigrant families would crowd up into extremely dirty and unmanageable conditions in order to pursue the American dream. The tenement buildings were about five to seven story high apartment buildings, and all that remains of them today is the “Lower East Side Tenement Museum,” which is located on 97 Orchard street. This building has been renovated and refurbished to represent the conditions that families were forced to adapt to during this time. [...]
[...] Although the conditions they were forced to live in were harsh, Jews living on the Lower East Side never dismissed the education of their children as unimportant. They were always interested in how their children were doing in school and encouraged them to go into respectable professions such as doctors, lawyers, or business owners. The immigrants who came to this country knew very well that the path towards economic security and upward mobility was through education: the retelling of the immigrant Jewish saga, the last step on the journey from desert to the promised land took place, for boys, when they went uptown to attend City College, a central icon in the story.” In Jewish communities, education was always vital. [...]
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