This post was written by Dina Posner, an intern at the Museum at Eldridge Street. Dina is a candidate for a Masters degree in Historic Preservation at Pratt Institute.
Happy Lower East Side History Month! For the entire month of May, local organization FABnyc, in collaboration with Downtown Art, is celebrating our dynamic, exciting, ever-changing neighborhood for the 6th year in a row. By partnering with 92 local non-profits, community groups, small businesses, and residents, LES History Month will celebrate the rich past, present and future of the LES. And the Museum at Eldridge Street is honored to be participating!
Founded in 2001, FABnyc is a group of “artists, organizers, and planners working to preserve, sustain, and grow the cultural vibrancy of the Lower East Side neighborhood.” They found the perfect partner in Downtown Art, a community and cultural center focused on “bringing people together around creative projects and community collaborations.” Their collaboration has produced a full calendar of public events, exhibits, tours, and learning opportunities that will both celebrate and educate about the diverse stories and compelling history of this dynamic neighborhood.
We love the mission of LES History Month, because we’re not just interested in the old Lower East Side. The Museum at Eldridge Street is dedicated to not only introducing people to the history of our own historic site and culture, but also celebrating the diversity of culture in the area from 100 years ago, to the mid-20th century, to today. In 2019, the Lower East Side is a reflection of both tradition and change. It’s uniqueness comes from the ways in which it has retained significant remnants of the past (like our landmark synagogue building), while also shifting dramatically with time, illustrating before our eyes how much an urban landscape can adapt over time. The fact that our grand synagogue now sits squarely in Chinatown is a perfect example of that change. And it’s something the Museum is proud to be a part of.
A walk through the East Village, Chinatown, Two Bridges and Loisaida (the neighborhoods which make up the LES) can reveal a profusion of cultural diversity, and it is important to also take a moment to think about and celebrate the history that led to the vibrant neighborhood we see today. And tomorrow, you’ll have a good excuse to take that walk! Chalk the LES, happening all day Friday May 3rd, is an LES History Month event which will set people to the streets, colorful chalk in hand, to mark up the sidewalks with historic and location-specific facts. By the end of the event, a person will be able to get a history lesson on the LES just by taking a stroll through the neighborhood! Stop by the Museum – we’ll be out there chalking up our own sidewalk with fascinating facts.
Another event that the Museum is collaborating with the LES History Month team for is the Yiddishe Mamas walking tour on Sunday May 12th. This fun brunch and tour will get attendees out in the LES streets, following in the footsteps of pious women and prostitutes, activists and artists, freethinking feminists and tough-talking balabustas. We’ll be celebrating women who made the neighborhood what it is today – past and present. Sign up here to join us and hear about influential women such as Visiting Nurse Service founder Lillian Wald and delicatessen queen Sarah Gellis.
Beyond our building, there are a ton of great events during LES History Month, including an on-site outreach event with Village Preservation, to highlight the preservation of “Yiddish Walk of Fame.” Created by a deli owner on the corner of 2nd Avenue and East 10th Street in 1984, inlaid markers in the sidewalk honor the stars of the once-thriving Jewish theater scene in the neighborhood. But since the 2nd Avenue Deli moved uptown in 2006, leaving the Walk of Fame behind, the markers have been deteriorating. Join Village preservation on May 17th to help save this important part of neighborhood history!
Above is just a small sampling of the events taking place this month, so take a look at this calendar to see all of the great upcoming LES History Month events! The many diverse events will surely prove to be informative, thought-provoking, and fun! We hope to see you around the LES in May!