The Tenement Saga: the Lower East Side and early Jewish American writers, Sanford Sternlicht, Jewish immigrants, the origins of Jewish existence in the Lower East Side of Manhattan
The book "The Tenement Saga: The Lower East Side and Early Jewish American Writers" by Sanford Sternlicht explores the life of Jewish immigrants living in tenements on the Lower East Side of Manhattan during the early 20th century. The Jewish immigrants who migrated from Europe to find a better life in America were often devoutly religious people. In the Lower East Side, there were hundreds of congregations both large and small. Jewish immigrants had various ways of observing their religion, and practices varied based on the origin of the immigrants.
[...] Sternlicht gives a very personal touch to the novel because he personally lived in a Lower East Side tenement and was familiar with the culture, the writers, the theatre, and the lifestyle of life in what he reminiscently describes as a ghetto that had its share of both the good and bad. Sternlicht gives a very personal example of everything he writes about. For example, he describes how religion was taken very seriously on the Lower East Side: “Self-appointed Orthodox religious ‘police,' bearded men in black coats and hats, would watch my father's stand to make sure he did not stay open a minute after sundown on Friday, ready to harass him if he dared to try to earn a few more cents for his family.” Sternlicht describes, with great personal knowledge, the culture of people who lived on the Lower East Side, he talks intimately about some of the novels that were popular in his age, and he describes the lives of some of the more famous Jewish authors who lived in the ghetto—people with whom he had personally interacted. [...]
[...] The conditions people lived in were harsh and uncomfortable, but nonetheless life appeared very exciting, unpredictable, and filled with possibilities. Although this was probably a reflection of the author's own opinion and is, at least to some extent, an extension of his own memories and feelings about the area, I believe his account is honest, fascinating, and filled with excitement and discovery. Works Cited Sternlict, Sanford. The Tenement Saga: The Lower East Side and Early Jewish American Writers.” New York: Terrace Books, 2004. [...]
[...] Sternlicht gives a very honest account of the Lower East Side—he focuses on the positive as well as many of the negative facets of life in this area. For example, he describes how people were often unsafe living on the Lower East Side, particularly young children who were often robbed and assaulted. Nonetheless, the Lower East Side was a hotbed of constant activity, and Sternlicht describes the frenzy with which people attempted to interact with each other, aspects of Jewish culture from their particular European origins, and get involved in the community in a variety of other ways. [...]
[...] He was able to attend the theatre's that he describes, he interacted directly with many of those whom he writes about, he personally lived the kind of tenements that he writes about, and growing up on the Lower East Side really allowed Sternlicht to describe his childhood and experiences while still conducting a historical analysis. I really enjoyed the book because it different from an ordinary historical account of an area. By intertwining his own life and experiences with momentous events that occurred on the East Side during his time there, the author presents us with both a personal and historical account that remains interesting throughout. [...]
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