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JEWISH New York City, NY

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SITES TO SEE

Sites

Emma Lazarus Memorial Plaque

This memorial plaque honoring Emma Lazarus, American Jewish poetess, is located in The Battery's famous monument walk in Manhattan. The plaque itself is made from Israeli limestone and bronze gifted from the State of Israel to the Sisterhood of the Spanish and Portuguese synagogues. Born on July 22, 1849 in New York City to a wealthy sugar refining family of Portuguese Sephardic Jewish descent whose roots extended to the very early days of New York City as a British colonial city, Emma Lazarus was the poet who wrote "The New Colossus" Aside from writing, Lazarus was also involved in charitable work for refugees. At Ward's Island, she worked as an aide for Jewish immigrants who had been detained by Castle Garden immigration officials. She was deeply moved by the plight of the Russian Jews she met there and these experiences influenced her writing. In 1883, William Maxwell Evarts and author Constance Cary Harrison asked Lazarus to compose a sonnet for the "Art Loan Fund Exhibition in Aid of the Bartholdi Pedestal Fund for the Statue of Liberty". In turn, Lazarus, inspired by her own Sephardic Jewish heritage, her experiences working with refugees on Ward's Island, and the plight of the immigrant, wrote "The New Colossus" on November 2, 1883. After the auction, the sonnet appeared in Joseph Pulitzer's New York World as well as The New York Times. She died in New York City on November 19, 1887, most likely from Hodgkin's lymphoma. Lazarus' famous sonnet depicts the Statue as the "Mother of Exiles:" a symbol of immigration and opportunity - symbols associated with the Statue of Liberty today. After its initial popularity however, the sonnet slowly faded from public memory. It was not until 1901, 17 years after Lazarus's death, that Georgina Schuyler, a friend of hers, found a book containing the sonnet in a bookshop and organized a civic effort to resurrect the lost work. Her efforts paid off and in 1903, words from the sonnet were inscribed on a plaque and placed on the inner wall of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

Sites

Brown Building (Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire)

The Brown Building, formerly known as the Asch Building, was the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire on March 25, 1911. One hundred and forty-six Jewish and Italian immigrant workers died in the blaze. It was the deadliest industrial disaster in New York City history. In its aftermath, outraged advocates demanded stronger workplace safety protections and better working conditions for those who toiled in the city’s sweatshops. The Brown Building occupies 23-29 Washington Place in Greenwich Village New York City. It was completed in 1901 and is an example of the neo-Renaissance architectural style. It features a stone base and brick upper walls with terra-cotta trim. Five limestone pilasters decorate the front façade and are topped with terra-cotta capitals. Originally the building housed retail shops on the ground level and factory space on levels 2-10. After the 1911 fire, the building was refurbished and sold to Frederick Brown, who rented it to nearby New York University. In 1929 Brown donated it to NYU and it was renamed in his honor. The Brown Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark on July 17, 1991. On March 25, 2003, it was named a New York City Landmark. As of 2020, it hosts classrooms and science labs. Memorial plaques commemorate the victims. Each March on the fire’s anniversary, the Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition organizes a memorial gathering. As of 2020, the Coalition is in the process of developing a permanent memorial to the fire’s victims.

Sites

Cemeteries of Congregation Shearith Israel

Shearith Israel was the only Jewish congregation in New York City from 1654 until 1825. During this entire span of history, all of the Jews of New York belonged to the congregation. Shearith Israel was founded by 23 Jews, mostly of Spanish and Portuguese origin. The earliest Jewish cemetery in the U.S. was recorded in 1656 in New Amsterdam where authorities granted the Shearith Israel Congregation “a little hook of land situated outside of this city for a burial place.” Its exact location is now unknown. The Congregation’s “second” cemetery, which is today known as the FIRST cemetery because it is the oldest surviving one, was purchased in 1683. Today, this cemetery is a mere fragment of its original extent. Only about a hundred headstones and above ground tombs can still be seen in what remains of the old burial ground, which rises slightly above street level. It is the only remaining 17th century structure in Manhattan. The second cemetery - now known as "New Bowery Cemetery". Burials began here in 1805, in what was a much larger, square plot extending into what is now the street. The Commissioners' Plan had established the city's grid in 1811, but not until 1830 was West 11th Street cut through, at that time reducing the cemetery to its present tiny triangle. The disturbed plots were moved further uptown to the Third Cemetery on West 21st Street. In 1852 city law forbade burial within Manhattan, and subsequent interments have been made in Queens. The third cemetery is between loft buildings and across the street from the School Of Visual Arts on West 21st St just off 6th Avenue is the Third Cemetery. This cemetery was adjacent to the congregation's synagogue on 19th Street--built in 1860 and now long gone.

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TOURS OF New York City, NY

Tours

Lower East Side Conservancy

The Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy is passionate about sharing and celebrating the Jewish heritage of the Lower East Side. The Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy is the only non-profit organization dedicated solely to the historic preservation of the Lower East Side’s sacred sites. Their mission is accomplished through quality touring programs, both private, public, and educational, which showcase the Lower East Side's landmarks, history and people. A portion of the proceeds of each tour is returned to the sacred sites visited on that tour, contributing to their restoration and conservation. The Conservancy takes great pride in being a full service organization. What that means for their visitors is that they take the time to customize your tour and make your experience as enjoyable and memorable as possible. On your request, they will recommend restaurants, hotel accommodations, shopping venues, and transportation routes. From its inception in 1998, the Conservancy has worked collaboratively with a broad spectrum of the Lower East Side’s cultural, social, historic, religious, architectural, programmatic, and business resources. The Conservancy’s local partners include the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, the Lower East Side Business Improvement District, The Educational Alliance, Henry Street Settlement, The Museum at Eldridge Street, the Angel Orensanz Cultural Foundation and Center for the Arts, 6th Street Community Center, and virtually all of the historic synagogues on the Lower East Side from East 14th Street. These collaborations have provided value-added for our visitors and partners. In addition to the Lower East Side, the LESJC provides tours of other New York neighborhoods of Jewish importance, such as Jewish Harlem, the Upper West side, and Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

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World Jewish Travel Official May 10, 2021

Top 10 ways to fix Jewish American Heritage Month

10 ways the month can become the best answer to the anti-Semitism epidemic sweeping the US May is American Heritage Month. Detail of Persin, Max. Farewell my dear parents Jewish folk song. Joseph P. Katz, New York, New York, 1920. (Library of Congress) May 1 marked the start of Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM), a month dedicated to highlighting the significant achievements that Jewish contributors have made to American culture and history. Yet, as in years past, a few days before the official launch at the White House, it is still one of America’s best kept secrets! You hear very little about it in the Jewish media, even worse from Jewish organizations, Jewish museums, and Jewish educational institutions. That lapse of attention has not gone unnoticed in the past which is why every few years pundits write articles with such titles as “Why Does No One Care About Jewish Heritage Month?” This year, more than ever, American Jews should truly care. It is perhaps the best answer to the epidemic of hate and antisemitism that has recently swept the United States. Until now the variety of responses (condemnations, vigils, etc.) by the Jewish community to these threats has been reactive. These actions are strong, but there is another, more positive and proactive approach we could take, that is, making a concerted effort to celebrate JAHM. JAHM ceremony at the White House in 2012 (Source: Pete Souza / White House Archives) Why can JAHM be an effective answer? Since hatred stems from fear, and people fear what they don’t understand, cultural education is still the strongest antidote to hate. This is why Congress set up a governmental mechanism to commemorate the contribution of different ethnic heritages (Indian, Irish, Jewish, etc.) to the story of the United States. Typically, the government sponsors a government website dedicated to the month, an archive of virtual exhibitions, and a kick off ceremony at the White House. We just finished celebrating African-American Heritage Month in February and Irish-American Heritage Month in March. It is clear that such a dedicated time of education and cultural activity can teach citizens about a culture to which they might not normally be exposed. Thus, the JAHM in May is a golden opportunity to promote and highlight the achievements and contributions of Jewish Americans to the American narrative. Until now, unfortunately, the lack of promotion of the JAHM has rendered the event a severely underutilized asset. To go further, we need a stronger top-down approach to unify our work to honor the story of American Jews. Clockwise: Betty Friedan – a writer, activist, and a leading figure in the women’s movement in the United States (Source: Fred Palumbo / Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection); Dr. Gertrude B. Elion – Nobel Prize winner in Physiology and Medicine (Source: WikiMedia Commons); Estée Lauder – co-founder of world renowned company, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom (Source: Bill Sauro / Library of Congress. New York World-Telegram and the Sun); Joe Lieberman – US politician, and former Senator to Connecticut (Source: WikiMedia Commons). Fortunately, we do not need to reinvent the wheel. Every September, a European Jewish heritage organization (the AEPJ) celebrates Jewish Heritage week throughout Europe, and their incredible annual celebrations are truly the gold standard. In 2016, they logged about 126,000 visitors to 1,245 activities in 363 cities across Europe. We need only look towards our European brethren for inspiration and clear directive on how we can improve our efforts. It is important to note that a good percentage of the visitors were NON-JEWS! Here are 10 specific ways the US can step up to the plate this May, taken straight from the Old World’s playbook: 1. Plan far ahead: The European event is planned nearly a year in advance. As late as March 2017, the official website for the US May heritage month still reflected old 2016 events. We must be much more advanced in our thinking if we are going to have any kind of far-reaching impact. 2. Choose a meaningful theme in a timely fashion: only on March 6, 2017, barely two months in advance, did the current JAHM management make an announcement that this year’s theme is the contribution of American Jews to medicine. An announcement of this order 1 1/2 months before the launch of an event of this magnitude is too little too late. Curators need a good 6-12 months to research, organize and produce meaningful exhibits. 3. Appoint regional coordinators: Each observing region in Europe has it’s own coordinator (about 30 coordinators in total), and America should be no different. Such a coordinator would serve as a liaison between local municipalities and the national movement, as well as to foster cross-pollination and exposure within their own territory. 4. Create a strong, centralized website: The European website is clean, engaging, and, most of all, consistently updated. It provides easy access points for communities who’d like to get involved, clear avenues for assuming local or regional leadership, and a thorough detailing of events. Such accessible infrastructure is one of the first necessary steps to building a strong and enduring event cycle. 5. Expand the number of cultural heritage professionals in the national steering committee: A movement about cultural heritage simply cannot be effectively conceived or executed without the guidance of pertinent professionals representing diverse areas of the country. Europe has consistently elevated such professionals to leadership positions, and it shows in the heart and foresight behind its annual commemorations. America has no shortage of such professionals, and must make use of them to its best advantage. Synchronize global activities. (left: JAHM, right: AEPJ) 6. Produce annual outcome reports: Was 2016 a success? Was 2015? Does anyone know? How do we measure it? Unfortunately, the answer in the US is that we don’t measure it. The European effort includes annual evaluation reports of the successes and shortcomings of the year’s activities, including a variety of metrics and outcomes. It’s only by turning a critical eye on what we’ve accomplished and where we can improve that such improvement could be possible. 7. Invite Jewish organizations and corporation to be activestakeholders: The American Jewish community already has strong, wide-reaching infrastructure in place. Few localities are untouched by wider Jewish organizations. By inviting these umbrella organizations to be stakeholders in the event, many other pillars of the month will naturally fall into place. By not issuing this invitation, we also risk alienating those who could be our strongest leaders. Europe has demonstrated the importance and doability of uniting various Jewish communal arms for a concerted cause. 8. Institute a pay-to-play methodology for issuing high-profile invites: For some years (before substantial budgetary cuts), the White House held a special reception for Jewish American Heritage month. Recognizing and including those who put the sweat in (whether organizationally or financially) is an obvious and necessary way to encourage greater independent leadership in the movement. The more you “pay” into the production of the event, the more you should get to “play” at its culminating moments. 9. Synchronize global activities: Many thanks to Assumpcio Hostas de Rebes, an AEJP leader, for this suggestion. Why not have the American, Canadian, and European festivities occur at the same time, with the same theme? This would encourage cross-pollination of ideas, tourism, and create a camaraderie and united front among global Jewish communities. As Anshel Feiffer of Haaretz noted, this recent spate of anti-Semitism “could be a pivotal moment, not only for American Jews, but for the creation of a new global Jewish identity.” This is our chance to come together. 10. Remember forgotten heroes: Every culture highlights its deepest values and greatest achievements through memorials to its heroes, and Judaism is no exception. Curiously, however, Jewish American heroes are relatively unknown compared to those in Europe. Kudos to the Schusterman Foundation for pushing this idea. By the way, who is your Jewish American hero? What are your ideas for Jewish American Heritage Month? Let me know in the comments below or email your thoughts here. U.S. and Israeli flags. (Source: Maj Stephanie Addison / Wikimedia Commons) Let me make it clear: there is leadership in place to make this work, if the highest echelon can give a strong initial push. My organization, World Jewish Heritage is ready and eager to contribute to making JAHM a shining example of how promoting cultural heritage can mitigate hate. Identification of the contributions of members of different American populations, such as Irish, Italian, African-American and Jewish heroes, makes everyone understand that the United States was built on the backs of immigrants who represent a diverse palate of cultures and ideas. It also makes us understand that American cultural heritage is part and parcel of a bigger collective heritage. This message could not come at a more crucial time when anti-semitism is running rampant in our society, and we must decide to take the reins. The road to capturing the imagination of this generation and generations to come is to shine a light on the sterling examples of our past.

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