Celebrate the Year of the Ram on Eldridge Street
Are you looking for the perfect place to watch the Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade this Sunday, February 22? Stop by the Museum at Eldridge Street. The parade passes directly in front of our landmark site, the 1887 Eldridge Street Synagogue. Click here to see the parade route.
“What is a synagogue doing in Chinatown?” That’s a question we hear from many of our visitors — and not just during Chinese New Year celebrations. The answer to that question has to do with the fact that our Lower East Side neighborhood has always been an immigrant community. A century ago, hundreds of thousands of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe lived and worked in the area. Back then, the neighborhood signs were written in Yiddish and Hebrew. Today, visitors see signs in Chinese, and shops selling dumplings and bubble tea. In fact, our block has been used for quintessential Chinatown shots in movies, including The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
At Eldridge Street we relish the dynamism of our ever-evolving neighborhood and city. History and contemporary culture meet here. We reflect on the experience of the Eldridge Street Synagogue’s 19th-century founders and its parallels with the experience of New York City’s Chinatown community today. Both groups brought with them language, rituals, food and culture from the Old Country and encountered new ways of doing things in America.
Every June we celebrate the Jewish past and Chinese present of our neighborhood at our Egg Rolls and Egg Creams Festival. Now in its 16th year, the Festival presents the music, folk art and food of the Eastern European Jewish community embodied by our landmark site, and also the continuing Chinese immigrant community of our neighborhood. Where else will you find a Hebrew and a Chinese scribe side by side in a sanctuary? Or performances of klezmer, cantorial and Chinese folk music one after the other?
Although both egg rolls and egg creams have become associated with Chinese and Jewish culture, neither was eaten back home in the Old Country. Both are American innovations — the perfect metaphor for our Festival which celebrates an immigrant community’s encounter with America.
The festival lies at the heart of the Museum’s mission. Through presentations of traditional art and music, it celebrates both the Eastern European Jewish heritage embodied by our landmark site, and also the continuing vibrancy of our immigrant community. This year our signature festival will expand to also feature the food, music and folk arts of the Puerto Rican community of the Lower East Side. In addition to Chinese opera and klezmer, there will be salsa and plena music; Yiddish, Chinese and Spanish lessons; Hebrew and Chinese scribal art and Puerto Rican mask making, and — of course — egg rolls, egg creams and empanadas!
This Sunday, get a front seat view of the Chinese New Year celebration outside our building this Sunday. Then, mark your calendars: This year’s Egg Rolls & Egg Creams –and Empanadas! — Festival will take place on Sunday, June 7 from 12 to 4 pm.
By Amy Stein-Milford and Nancy Johnson