Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday Immigration News

Home-schoolers win asylum in U.S.
(Washington Times, 1/28/10)
A U.S. immigration judge's decision to grant political asylum to a German family with "a well-founded fear of persecution" for home-schooling their children should send a powerful message to the German government to change its stance on home schooling, the family's attorney said Wednesday.

Haitians gain Temporary Protected Status
(Caribbean Life, 1/27/10)
Haitian nationals already in the United States when the devastating January 12 eathquakestruck at home became eligible for Temporary Protected Status, under an order signed by the Secretary of Homeland Security which took effect on January 21. Andrea Quarantillo, New York district director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said the order will remain in effect through July 22, 2011.

NY pastor sentenced for scamming immigrants
(Associated Press via WCAX, 1/26/10)
The pastor of a New York City storefront church is going to jail for scamming more than 100 immigrants by promising to get them U.S. visas and legal status. Queens District Attorney Richard Brown says 57-year-old Gregorio Gonzalez, of Mamaroneck (muh-MAHR'-uh-nek), N.Y., was sentenced Tuesday to two to six years in prison. He pleaded guilty to grand larceny earlier this month.

Historic Signage, part II

Part Two of Derya's post on the old signs hanging in the windows of 97 Orchard is now up on Bowery Boogie. Go read about the Louis Chock underwear store!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Shop Signs in the Windows of 97 Orchard

Derya Golpinar, our collections manager, and Dave Favaloro, our research manager, collaborated on two posts for the Bowery Boogie blog on the signs now gracing the windows of 97 Orchard Street. We used two signs from our collection - one for Feltly Hats and one for Chock, Inc. Head over to Bowery Boogie to read the first post today, on Minding the Store and the history of Feltly Hats.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Clybourne Park 30 & Under Bash

Interested in how issues like race and gentrification are affecting our neighborhoods? Check out Clybourne Park, a new play at Playwrights Horizons, which explores these themes. Tony Award winner Frank Wood (Side Man; August: Osage County) and Emmy nominee Annie Parrise (Becky Shaw) take a 50-year jaunt through the same neighborhood into which the Younger family dreamed of moving in Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun.

Tenement Museum special for our fans 30 and under: sign up for our Orchard Street Contemporaries mailing list by February 3rd, and we’ll send you a code for $20 tickets to Playwrite Horizon's "Splitsville Stomp," a 30 & under bash on Friday, February 5th. Tickets include admission to the play and a party with djs, cocktails, comfort cuisine and giveaways.

Email OSC(at) to sign up.

The Orchard Street Contemporaries is a group of young professionals committed to advancing the mission of the Tenement Museum by connecting the immigrant history of the Lower East Side to the vibrancy of the neighborhood today.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Gender Studies in Hasidic Williamsburg

This Thursday Ayala Fader, author of Mitzvah Girls: Bringing Up the Next Generation of Hasidic Jews in Brooklyn, is coming to Tenement Talks. Her book focuses on the Hasidim in Brooklyn, specifically girls’ experiences growing up in this community. It should be a thought-provoking discussion of religious and gender.

While many ethnic groups adopt aspects of American culture, the Satmar Hasidim have for the most part resisted assimilation. Scholar Jerome Mintz describes this community, which was established after the Holocaust:

…unlike the immigrants of earlier decades who had sought to eliminate differences between themselves and other Americans and to integrate into American life… Distinctiveness from the American community, rather than acculturation, was the keystone of their social strategy.

Yiddish, rather than English, is the first language of Hasidim. Hasidic men and boys wear the same style of clothing that their Hungarian ancestors wore decades ago – long black kaftans and black hats. In New York, the Satmar Hasidim manage their own schools, satisfying the state educational requirements in English and secular subjects and dedicating the rest of their time to religion. They live in a concentrated area to attend synagogue; access food, health providers, drug stores, barbers, and tailors that accommodate the strict requirements of their religion; and be close to the rebbe, their religious leader. In this structured, homogeneous community, the Hasidim replicate their way of life in each subsequent generation.

As Fader argues, however, Hasidic women interact much more with the secular world then outsiders might imagine:

They are fluent Yiddish speakers but switch to English as they grow older; they are increasingly modest but also fashionable; they read fiction and play games like those of mainstream American children but theirs have Orthodox Jewish messages; and they attend private Hasidic schools that freely adapt from North American public and parochial models.

What do these changes mean for the community?

We’re looking forward to hearing more from Dr. Fader and hope you’ll join us on Thursday. Tenement Talks are held at the Museum Shop, 108 Orchard at Delancey, at 6:30 pm.

- Posted by Penny King

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday Immigration News

Angel Island's history offers lessons on immigration policy (Opinion)
(Los Angeles Times, 1/21/10)

One hundred years ago today, the Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco Bay opened its doors. From 1910 to 1940, the "Ellis Island of the West" was the gateway into America for more than half a million immigrants from 80 countries, all seeking the opportunity, freedom and fortune of the American dream. But, built to enforce laws that specifically excluded Chinese and other Asian immigrants from the country, the Angel Island Immigration Station turned away countless newcomers and deported thousands of U.S. residents who were considered risks to the nation or had entered the country with fraudulent papers. For those who were denied entry because of race and class-biased exclusion laws, Angel Island showed America at its worst as a gate-keeping nation.

Secrets of the Immigration Jails (Opinion)
(New York Times, 1/20/10)

Americans have long known that the government has been running secretive immigration prisons into which detainees have frequently disappeared, their grave illnesses and injuries untreated, their fates undisclosed until well after early and unnecessary deaths. What we did not know, until a recent article in The Times by Nina Bernstein, was how strenuously the government has tried to cover up those failings — keeping relatives and lawyers in the dark, deflecting blame, fighting rigorous quality standards, outside oversight and transparency. These deficiencies endure today.

The Catholic case for immigration reform
(, 1/18/10)

Servant of God, Bishop Fulton Sheen, once said, "There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church." Sadly, Bishop Sheen's statement applies not only to those outside the Church, but to millions who are baptized Catholics. A case in point is the response to an initiative by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops calling for a "humane and comprehensive solution to the problems which beset our immigration system."

1 killed, 5 injured as suspected smuggling boat capsizes
(Los Angeles Times, 1/17/10)

A boat packed with suspected illegal immigrants capsized early Saturday in the surf off a state beach in San Diego, leaving one migrant dead and triggering a search-and-rescue effort that lasted throughout the day, authorities said. The incident illustrates an uptick in maritime smuggling along the U.S.-Mexico border as smugglers respond to a buildup of forces and barriers at the land boundary separating San Diego from Baja California.

Thousands protest sheriff's immigration efforts
(Washington Post via Associated Press, 1/17/10)

Thousands of immigrant rights advocates marched in front of a county jail in Phoenix Saturday in a protest that was aimed at Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio's immigration efforts and was marked by a clash between a small group of protesters and police officers. Organizers say the protest was meant to show officials in Washington that Arpaio shouldn't handle immigration enforcement, and that Congress and the Obama administration need to come up with a way for immigrant workers to come to the country legally.

Schumer Seeks to Keep Immigration Detention Site in Manhattan Open

(New York Times, 1/15/10)

Senator Charles E. Schumer is urging federal officials not to close immigration detention operations at the Varick Federal Detention Facility in Manhattan, saying that their decision to transfer its roughly 300 detainees to a county jail in New Jersey “will represent a crushing blow to the due process rights of immigrants detained within the New York metropolitan area.”

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Join us for Family Programs!

A Family Program at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum

  • Sunday, January 31, 10:30 am – 12 pm
  • Saturday, February 6, 10:30 am – 12 pm
Pay a visit some of to some of the families who once lived at 97 Orchard Street and see how they made a home in our historic tenement house. Costumed interpreters playing the roles of former residents, including Adolpho Baldizzi (1934), Harris Levine (1897), Fanny Rogarshevsky (1918), and Bridget Moore (1869), will invite you into their apartments as they share what their lives in 97 Orchard Street were like. Learn about the culture and communities from which they came, what resources they had available to them, and how they might have made a comfortable space for themselves in difficult conditions.

This is a special chance to “meet” residents and explore multiple apartments inside the Tenement Museum on an extended, two hour program. If you enjoy the Confino Family Living History Program, then this is for you!

Tickets are available for advance purchase online or over the phone – or 866-606-7232. Tickets also available at the Visitor Center, in advance and on the day of the program (pending availability). Call 212-982-8402 to find out if tickets are available.

Nick, one of our educators, playing Adolpho Baldizzi in October 2009.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The tragedy of the steamship General Slocum

Many of New York’s nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century ethnic neighborhoods have long since disappeared, but none met such a tragic end as Little Germany, also known as Kleindeutschland.

Millions of German immigrants arrived in the United States during the nineteenth century and established a thriving community on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. On June 15, 1904, thirteen hundred members of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church boarded the steamboat General Slocum at the East Third Street pier for an outing to Locust Grove on Long Island.

As the ship headed up the East River, a fire broke out, engulfing the wooden steamboat as it sped into the wind. Faulty life jackets increased the number of deaths to between 800 and 1200 people - New York City’s deadliest tragedy before September 11th. Many bodies were burned beyond recognition. This photograph depicts a gathering of mourners burying the unidentified dead.

Burial of the ‘unidentified’ ‘... Digital ID: PS_MSS_CD8_106. New York Public Library
Burial of the ‘unidentified’ ‘Gen. Slocum’ disaster June [15, 1904] : Corner Ave. A & 6th St. Gustav Scholer papers. / Series XI. Photographs. New York Public Library.

The General Slocum disaster decimated St. Mark’s membership and caused many families of German ancestry to leave the neighborhood “so intimately linked with the death of their loved ones,” writes historian Edward O’Donnell.

The number of German residents of Kleindeutschland decreased in the 1890s, but the General Slocum disaster accelerated this trend because the vast majority of the victims lived within a forty-block area.

Today you can visit a memorial of this tragedy in Tompkins Square Park, located in the neighborhood that was once called Kleindeutschland.

- Posted by Penny King

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Questions for Curatorial... New York Irish History

A while back I gave a Moore tour and was asked some questions I couldn't answer. As a responsible educator, I went back to the office and talked to our Curatorial Director, Dave Favaloro. So, if you happened to take my tour a few weeks ago and are faithfully reading the blog... here's what you wanted to know!

- Kate

1. Do we know if the other Moore daughters who died are formally, properly buried like baby Agnes?

Yes, all of the Moore children, as well as Bridget and Joseph, are buried in a family plot, which was purchased in April 1869 following Agnes’ death.

2. Were many middle or upper-class Irish moving to New York at the same time as Famine victims?

While few middle or upper-class Irish immigrated to New York during the 1840s and 1850s, by the mid-19th century, the city was home to an Irish community that according to historian Hasia Diner, “contained many economic layers,” including unskilled laborers and skilled craftsmen, as well as the more settled, affluent descendants of earlier Irish immigrants – merchants, physicians, lawyers, and teachers.

3. During the mid-19th century, did people from Northern Ireland immigrant to New York?
Although the majority of Irish immigrants who settled in New York during the 18th century were Protestants from Northern Ireland, by the mid-19th century, their numbers paled in comparison to Catholics from the south and west of Ireland.

4. What was the relationship between Catholic and Protestant Irish immigrants in the 19th century?

By the mid-19th century, Catholic Irish vastly outnumbered Protestant Irish in New York City. Relations between the two groups were generally adversarial, and sometimes hostile and even violent.

The worst episodes of violence between Catholic and Protestant Irish in these years were the Orange and Green Riots of 1870 and 1871. In 1870, eight people were killed when outraged Catholics protested during the annual July 12 Boyne Day march, held by Protestant Irish Orangemen to celebrate the victory of Prince William of Orange over Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

Tensions within the Irish community had been building for years, as Protestants argued against the Catholic "threat" to American values and their "inability to be good citizens." The following year, plans for the march coincided with the first revelations of the Tweed Ring scandal, in which Boss Tweed and his Tammany followers had taken millions of dollars from the city in political graft. Rumors of violence on both sides prompted the state to provide the marchers with military and police protection, despite attempts by Mayor A. Oakley Hall to ban the parade.

In 1871, threats of violence proved correct when crowds of Catholic Irish lining the parade route along Eighth Avenue began throwing rocks at the marchers. In response, the military accompaniment began to shoot indiscriminately into the crowd, killing sixty-two, mainly Catholics. While the 1871 riot was the last major outbreak of violence against Irish Catholics, Orangemen continued to march for several more years and join organizations like the American Protective Association that espoused nativist ideals.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Museums that Celebrate Civil Rights

In honor of Martin Luther King Day, the Tenement Museum would like to recognize a few of the museums and institutions that carry on Dr. King’s legacy. The issues we tackle here at the Tenement Museum -- immigration and immigrant rights -- are a core component of the contemporary civil rights movement. Immigrant reformers are looking to Dr. King for inspiration as immigration reform and legislation are debated. I highly recommend a visit to any of the following institutions to think about civil rights in America.

The National Civil Rights Museum
Memphis, Tennessee

Chronicles the struggle for civil rights from 1619 through the present. The Museum is housed in the former Lorraine Motel, the site of Martin Luther King’s assassination on April 4, 1968. Dr. King’s hotel room is on display and visitors stand just feet from the balcony where he was shot.

Civil Rights Memorial Center
Montgomery, Alabama

The Memorial Center, located at the Southern Poverty Law Center, honors those who lost their lives during the Civil Rights Movement. It includes a section on contemporary civil rights issues as well as a “Wall of Tolerance.” Visitors who add their names to the wall are promising to take a stand against injustice.

The National Voting Rights Museum and Institute
Selma, Alabama

This community museum is steps from the Edmund Pettus Bridge. The Museum features the powerful “I Was There” wall that invites Selma-to-Montgomery marchers and witnesses to share their stories. Many of the staff were involved in the Civil Rights Movement and offer their powerful first-hand accounts.

If you’re in the NYC area, plan to visit the Bronx Museum of the Arts between March 28 – July 11, 2010 to view “Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement, 1956 – 1968.” This striking photography exhibit contains 150 vintage photographs and documents the key figures and events of the Movement. I was lucky enough to see it at the High Museum of Art when it opened in 2008, and it’s not to be missed.

- posted by Pamela Mattera

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday Immigration News

Loew's Canal Street Theater May Become Chinatown Cultural Center
(, 1/15/10)

On summer weekends, Rebecca Lepkoff remembers holding 15 cents in her hand and lining up to get into the Loew's Canal Street Theater to escape the heat of her Hester Street tenement. It was 1928, and she was just 12 years old. The enormous movie theater on Canal Street near Ludlow was the center of the neighborhood.

"It was a lovely theater. It was a beautiful theater," Lepkoff, now 93, told DNAinfo. "It was very roomy." Today, the decrepit theater, which closed down nearly four decades ago, is a warehouse. But it may get a new life — as a Chinese performing arts center — and once again become the center of an old neighborhood, now largely dominated by Chinese immigrants.

Special status will halt deportations from U.S.
(USA Today, 1/14/10)

Lawmakers and immigration groups are calling on the Obama administration to grant Haitians in the USA, including those here illegally, a special temporary legal status that would protect them from deportation and allow them to take jobs. That would be a step beyond what the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has announced: a halt in deportations "for the time being." About 30,000 Haitians now in the USA had been ordered deported.

Immigration reform advocates see inspiration in work of MLK, honored at naturalization events
(Los Angeles Times, 1/14/10)

After almost nine years, Nigerian immigrant Emakoji Ayikoye is now an American. The final step came at a naturalization ceremony, where he and about 100 others recited the citizenship oath. But Thursday's ceremony was weighted with more symbolism than usual for the 32-year-old college math teacher. It was one of several being held nationwide in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Another, on Friday in Atlanta, will feature a speech from his daughter Bernice King.

Honoring the slain civil rights leader via a naturalization ceremony makes perfect sense to Ayikoye. And around the country, immigration reform advocates also are connecting their efforts to the work of King and the civil rights movement, looking for inspiration and a way to gain support in hopes of passing legislation in 2010.

Makeshift Homes Are Leveled in Suffolk County
(1/13/10, New York Times)

Up to 30 men had called these woods home until Monday morning, when the owners of the 26.6-acre property had the men’s tents torn apart. Skinny tree branches, which the men had used as posts for their plastic tarps, were now strewn about. Some of the men, most of them illegal immigrants, had lived in the clearing for years. Its location, even in winter, was a natural: a quick-enough walk from a trailer that serves as a hiring center for day laborers, supported by the town of Huntington, in Suffolk County. But as of late, it had been a futile trip.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

History Resources at the Library

Around here, we love the New York Public Library for many reasons - free books, cool digital archive, ferocious mascot. But mostly the Library is a tremendous resource for anyone doing research about the city. Recently I found a great list of sites relating to "Manhattan history on the web" on their own new-and-improved website. Check it out here.

Naturally, we make the cut, but there are lots of other great links about 19th century history, housing, and life. Check out an excerpt from William Dean Howells' "An East Side Ramble," 1896:
[The East Side] is said to be more densely populated than any other area in the world, or at least in Christendom, for within a square mile there are more than three hundred and fifty thousand men, women and children. One can imagine from this fact alone how they are housed and what their chances of the comforts and decencies of life may be...
What the place must be in summer I had not the heart to think, and on the wintry day of my visit I could not feel the fury of the skies which my guide said would have been evident to me if I had seen it in August. I could better fancy this when I climbed the rickety stairs within one of the houses and found myself in a typical New York tenement. Then I almost choked at the thought of what a hot day, what a hot night, must be in such a place, with the two small windows inhaling the putrid breath of the court and transmitting it, twice fouled by the passage through the living-room, to the black hole in the rear, where the whole family lay on the heap of rags that passed for a bed...

My friend asked me if I would like to go into any other tenements, but I thought that if what I had seen was typical, I had seen enough in that quarter. The truth is, I had not yet accustomed myself to going in upon people in that way, though they seemed accustomed to being gone in upon without any ceremony but the robust "Good-morning!" my companion gave them by way of accounting for our presence, and I wanted a little interval to prepare myself for further forays. The people seemed quite ready to be questioned, and answered us as persons in authority. They may have taken us for detectives, or agents of benevolent societies, or journalists in search of copy. In any case, they had nothing to lose and they might have something to gain; so they received us kindly and made us much at home among them as they knew how. It may have been that in some instances they supposed that we were members of the Board of Health and were their natural allies against their landlords.
- posted by Kate

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Photos from the finished Rear Yard exhibit

We're so happy to announce that "Rear Yard at 97 Orchard Street" is open to the public.

The recreated yard depicts early tenement life in New York. You can see it from Allen Street or learn more about the importance of the space in the lives of working-class New Yorkers by taking The Moores: An Irish Family in America tour, which is offered daily.

The Rear Yard at 97 Orchard Street

Inside the Privy Shed

Rear Yard at 97 Orchard Street

On a funny note, most of this laundry was blown off the line a few weeks ago when the weather was bad. Some long-john style underpants were blown over the fence and subsequently disappeared - hope someone found them who needs them in this cold weather. While we figure out how to better secure the clothing, it's been temporarily removed from the lines. All this serves as a reminder that 19th and early 20th century homemakers had to wash and dry laundry no matter what the weater - in the rain, snow, and wind.

More photos are on our Flickr page.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Last week to see Tea Cart Stories!

Tea Cart Stories, Michelle Brody's installation project in the windows of 97 Orchard Street, will be closing this Thursday, January 14th.

With this interactive and ever-changing exhibit, the artist has explored the worldwide tradition of sharing tea.

A passerby checks out the Tea Cart Stories installation

Tea paraphenalia such as cups, tea bags, and mugs

In early 2009, Michelle held tea parties with students from the Museum's ESOL program, "Shared Journeys." Students from Argentina, Yemen and China shared stories about their home countries, which they wrote down on their used tea bags. Michelle also collected stories from passerby on Orchard Street, who stepped into her tea cart over the summer to share a cuppa and talk about tea. The cart was crafted out of an old pushcart in the Museum’s collection.

ESOL students share their memories & stories of tea

Michele & Visitor at tea cart

These stories, along with photographs of the participants, were strung along a copper support structure inside the front windows of the tenement. Each tea bag holds a unique story about the most widely drunk beverage in the world next to water. Together they form a quilt-like narrative. The viewer is invited to contemplate how tea might connect lives across cultures.

As the artist notes: "In Great Britain they drink tea as a break from the work day. In the Middle East tea is served as a welcoming gesture to guests. In Japan the Tea Ceremony is highly ritualized cultural production. One drink has an enormous place in the lives of millions of people. To look at our world through tea is to see our differences as well as the similarities that bind us."

- posted by Kate

Monday, January 11, 2010

Behind the Scenes at the Tenement Museum

Behind the scenes at the Tenement Museum, staffer Melissa gives our hallway "medallion" oil paintings some TLC by removing surface dust with a hake brush and HEPA vacuum. The medallions were added to the hallway c. 1900. The "pastry icing" decoration she is brushing is made of plaster. The scene inside the medallion is an oil painting that was directly applied to the burlap wall covering. You can also see the decorative pressed metal that was applied to the ceiling of the hallway (also c. 1900.)

Monday, January 4, 2010

An Auspicious Beginning For 2010

I was privileged on New Year’s Day to hear Mayor Bloomberg deliver his inaugural address, advocating comprehensive immigration reform as a hallmark of his next administration. 

Making the event terrific was the fact that students from Newcomers High School, most of them no more than two or three years in the United States, introduced every speaker; each student proudly represented New York and spoke to what the City meant to them.  Bloomberg himself called for a bipartisan coalition to take on the challenging issue of immigration in a way that supports President Obama’s call for “reform that honors our history, upholds our values, and promotes our economy.”

The Mayor reminded New Yorkers of what all supporters of the Tenement Museum know: “No city on Earth—no city—should hold these principles higher aloft than this city of immigrants, because no city on earth has been more rewarded by immigrant labor, more renewed by immigrant ideas, more revitalized by immigrant culture, than the City of New York.”

For sure, this was a political speech.  But I must confess that I continue to be moved by rhetoric that addresses “the ideals that have lit the lamp of liberty in our harbor for more than a century, and that continue to inspire the world!”  That kind of rhetoric is what political leaders do when they are at their best.  They help us imagine a world in which we can recommit ourselves to the best of our ideals.

Morris J. Vogel
Tenement Museum

-posted by Derya