Ask an Intern!
The Museum at Eldridge Street’s interns bring energy, enthusiasm and fresh insight to our historic landmark, the 1887 Eldridge Street Synagogue. For this feature our Education Associate Rachel Serkin interviewed intern Sarah Hong and got her take on the Museum, her own family’s immigrant roots, Yiddish 101 and why one of her favorite spots in the synagogue is a former toilet.
Sarah hails from Nolensville, Tennessee and is one of five kids. She is currently a sophomore at Parsons New School of Design majoring in Strategic Design and Management and minoring in Environmental Studies.
What brought you to Eldridge Street?
I’ve always been interested in sustainability and restoration and after a professor told me about the internship program at the Museum at Eldridge Street I came in for an interview and felt an instant connection.
What is your personal connection to immigration?
Both my parents are first generation immigrants from South Korea. My dad is the son of a blue-collar welder in Detroit, Michigan and my mom was born in Queens to a single mother who worked as a cashier. My parents started from scratch. My dad is a scientist and my mom is an engineer. It’s amazing for me to see how far they had to come to get to this point.
Of all the spaces at Eldridge Street, which is your favorite to talk about?
I really like to talk about the women’s balcony and the experience of women here at the synagogue. But I also like to talk about more surprising features of the synagogue, including a closet in the back of the sanctuary that once housed a toilet. I compare our modern bathrooms to this toilet. While many people may have never been in a synagogue before, all people can relate to bathroom/plumbing issues. It is important to know that in 1887 most people in this neighborhood and New York City didn’t even have running water. The fact that this synagogue had a toilet inside the building was a really big deal. The toilet makes me realize how lucky we are to have the amenities we do today. It is also amusing that it looks like a Catholic confession booth. My visitors always get a laugh when I ask them to guess what it was and then explain that its use and history.
Tell me about a great tour you had. What made that tour special?
Today I had a tour with a South African couple who had planned their trip to New York City specifically so they could take a tour at Eldridge Street. They were very funny and asked many questions. I appreciate visitors like this because they ask challenging questions and are understanding when I don’t know all the answers. One time I had a visitor from France and he wanted to engage so deeply with the space that he asked if I could help him put on a yarmulke. It was his first time wearing one!
When I’m not at Eldridge Street I can usually be found…..
Working in the library, writing papers, and being on the general “struggle bus.”
Here at Eldridge Street we like to build our Yiddish vocabulary! I am going to ask you to choose your favorite Yiddish word and use it in a couple of sentences.
Schlep: It’s when you’re dragging your feet and ungracefully moving! Schlepping literally conveys how I feel physically and emotionally. I am always schlepping to school. Schlep is not a graceful word and does not convey a graceful feeling.
Do you have any questions for Sarah or our other interns?