Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A History of Helping Each Other

 Abraham Rogarshevsky, A member of the Sons of Telsh

 You may have noticed a few or maybe dozens of appeals for money in your regular and digital mailboxes. The end of the year is a traditional time for such appeals because they offer one last opportunity to make some tax-advantaged donations before the end of the calendar year.

At the Tenement Museum, when we ask for your support we do it with a deep sense of historic perspective. Did you know that an early form of American philanthropy was created right here on the Lower East Side by immigrants? Recently arrived in a new country, they formed landsmanschaftn, or Mutual Aid Societies to support their members (often from the same European village or town) and provide financial assistance in times of crisis. Part insurance, part social service, contributions to such groups would mean that when help was needed, it would be available. Residents of 97 Orchard, including John Schneider, Julius Gumpertz, Harris Levine and Abraham Rogarshevsky contributed a part of their limited means to such organizations as the Joshua Lodge of the Fraternal Sons of Israel, the Sons of Italy, the Wisdom of Man Society, The Sons of Telsh, and more.

At the Tenement Museum, whether we are telling the stories of Italian, Jewish, Irish or German immigrants, very often we are telling the stories of people who helped each other in times of need. Immigrants dealt with financial panics and depressions, the ups and downs of running a small business and the difficulties of raising a new generation in a new environment. Support systems were essential.

If you are a member of the Tenement Museum, you provide critical support throughout the year and, in return, we provide some pretty great benefits, just like the landsmanschaftn. As 2010 winds down, we ask for your continued or additional support to ensure that our research and stories remain as relevant today as they were when the Tenement Museum opened 22 years ago. Ticket revenue and sales from our renowned Museum shop make up just 65% of our operating budget. We rely on the generous support of people like you who love and believe in what we do every day here at the Tenement Museum to make up the difference. We hope that you will give thoughtful consideration to making as generous a gift as you can. We promise to apply your gift just as thoughtfully to sustaining our innovative work and delivering the most enriching and engaging experience possible.

Leslie Milton, Director of Major Gifts 

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