Passover is a time when our families get together to share and create stories and memories.
Sharing stories and memories is an everyday occurrence at the Museum at Eldridge Street. It seems like everyone we meet has a family connection to the Lower East Side, which makes sense given how many people lived or passed through this neighborhood upon first arriving in America. Part of the joy of working here is helping visitors to find out more about family members who may have come through our doors 100 years ago and discovering more about individuals who lived and worked in the buildings that still stand right outside our front doors. Here is a wonderful family story that Eva Bruné, our Vice President for Institutional Advancement, shared and that I think will be meaningful for you as we head into the holidays.
“My grandfather Joseph Siegel was 5 years old when his family brought him from Kishinev to the Lower East Side in 1904. This was following the horrible pogrom of 1903 and I am sure their Passover seder of that year had poignant significance. They lived on Park Row – a bustling neighborhood of tenement buildings and newspaper offices, and now the site of New York City’s City Hall. Papa Joe, as I called him, had dozens of stories of Lower East Side life. Even when I was a little girl in the 1950s, Papa Joe would take me every weekend to the Lower East Side – to Ratner’s with their delicious blintzes and onion rolls, for shopping on Orchard Street, to my uncle’s fabric store, and just to visit the old neighborhood. As I walk the streets of the Lower East Side today with my children, I pass on these family stories.
Every time I walk into the Eldridge Street Synagogue, I think of him. I remember all of my grandparents, now long gone, and my family. The Museum at Eldridge Street, which sustains and maintains the National Historic Landmark 1887 Eldridge Street Synagogue, is a place where these family memories come alive.”
As New York Times columnist Frank Rich said during the rededication of this extraordinary treasure of American Jewish history just a couple of years ago, “The renewal of Eldridge Street is more important than ever. Visitors will hear not only the story of immigrant Jews who settled and worshipped here but the story of American values of tolerance and inclusion and freedom they adopted, practiced and spread far beyond the neighborhood.”
Happy Passover. My best wishes to you and your family.
Bonnie Dimun, Executive Director