Friday, January 28, 2011

Questions for Curatorial - Joiner

In the 1910 US Census for 97 Orchard Street, Ida Rogarshevsky’s occupation is listed as “joiner.” What was a joiner during this period?

While there does not appear to be a clear definition for the occupation of “joiner,” Museum researchers believe that a joiner performed work similar to a baster in the garment industry. Like a baster, a joiner probably prepared the garments for the sewing machine operator by joining or fitting the pieces together by loosely stitching them by hand.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tenement Talk of the Day: New Perspectives on Italian American History, with Nancy Carnevale in conversation with Jennifer Guglielmo. Moderated by Joanna Clapps Herman.

Last week, we were delighted to welcome to Tenement Talks two leading scholars to speak about the history of women within the context of the larger Italian immigrant story, exploring language, gender and resistance.  Nancy Carnevale specializes in the history of immigration, race and ethnicity in the U.S. Her most recent book is A New Language, A New World: Italian Immigrants in the United States, 1890-1945.  She is also Assistant Professor of history at Montclair State University.  Jennifer Guglielmo, U.S. history professor at Smith College, is the author of Living the Revolution: Italian Women’s Resistance and Radicalism in New York City, 1880-1945.

We were also glad to welcome back Joanna Clapps Herman to moderate the discussion.  Joanna is a veteran to Tenement Talks, this was her third visit, and she’ll be back in April with her forthcoming book Anarchist Bastard.  Joanna teaches creative writing at Manhattanville College and at the Center for Worker Education.  She is the co-author of Wild Dreams: The Best of Italian Americana and of Our Roots Are Deep with Passion: Creative Nonfiction Collects New Essays by Italian-American Writers.

Listen to the Tenement Talk here:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Photo of the Day: Clothes Rack

Tenement Museum-1467
Photo by

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Podcast: Pest Management

Collections Manager and Registrar Derya Golpinar talks about keeping pests away from the Museum's collection of documents, photographs and artifacts. How does the Museum keep rats and mice from living in a 147-year-old tenement on a very, ahem, active block? With integrated pest management, of course!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Visitors of the Week: Carolyn and Noah from London

We're always looking to learn about the many, diverse visitors who stop by the Tenement Museum each week. Planning a visit? Send us an email and be our next Visitor of the Week!

Meet our Visitors of the Week, Carolyn and her son, Noah. Visiting from London, the two come to New York many times a year to spend time with Noah’s Grandmother. After investigating their own family’s history, the two discovered that they, too, have a connection to the Lower East Side.

Carolyn: Noah’s grandmother… has a story down on the Lower East Side. So that’s why we started coming to the Tenement Museum. It’s the first time we’d been.

What’s your grandmother’s connection?

C: Norma, [Noah’s] grandmother, was born to Hyman Kremer and Naomi, who were immigrants from Bialystok, now Poland, once Russia. Norma married Jack Bloomberg, who also is from Bialystok. Once his family came here, Jack was born on the way in Britain by chance…. As far as we gather, we’ve just started investigating.

What tour will you be going on today?
C: Immigrant Soles, the Walking Tour.

Do you have any favorites from the other tours you’ve done here?
C: That’s a tough one!
Noah: I like Piecing It Together with Justin!
C: I liked that one, too. A lot of your family, Noah, was in the garment industry, as well. One of the memories that Norma had last night was… waking up very early in the morning to find her mother stitching sequins onto chiffon in the morning light by the window. It’s been very interesting the last week or two since we’ve been coming here, because you go around these stories in different ways and Norma’s remembered different things.

So what are some other things you like to do when you’re visiting New York?
N: I like to go to Central Park… to the zoo. And right now, I’ve been having a really good time sledding.
C: Do you remember where you went yesterday in Brooklyn?
N: We went to the Brooklyn Transit Museum! It used to be an old train station.
C: The other place that’s near where we’re staying now in the Upper West Side is the Natural History Museum! But this has actually been our best museum experience in all of New York, I would say. We became members after the first tour, and we’ve been on four indoor tours, and now the outside tour. We thought we’d leave it to the end, having done the indoor tours… So we’ll do that and go to Katz’s deli for lunch later!

Have you been yet?
N: No!

You have to get some latkes.
C: Is that one of the things we should get?

They’re so good!
C: We should get some, Noah. They’ll be better than your Dad’s at Chanukah!

- ag

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Podcast: Butcher Shops and Other Businesses

Learn more about the businesses that operated our of 97 Orchard Street in the second half of our long conversation with Curatorial Director Dave. (Here's the first half.) He talks a lot about butcher shops and the Lustgarten family.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Unsung Immigrants: Sam "Seymore" Gottesman

Unfortunately it's impossible to learn about the individual histories of every one of the many 97 Orchard residents just by taking our building tours. Yet we understand that they each deserve recognition for the interesting and often extraordinary lives they have led.

Sam Gottesman is one of these lesser known tenement residents but an important friend to the Tenement Museum.

Sam was born on the fourth of July, 1901, in New York City. His father, David Gottesman, who worked as a machinist, and mother, Tobia Herman Gottesman, had immigrated from Romania. Sam was the first American-born member of the family. Together, they lived in one of 97 Orchard's third floor apartments for the first years of Sam's life. 

Here he is as an infant sometime during late 1901 or early 1902:
Collection of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum © 2010

Sam left the family's Lower East Side home along with his parents when they decided to return to Romania; it is unclear why they chose to leave the United States.

His parents stayed in the old country, but Sam returned to New York in 1924 and quickly found work as a bookkeeper. More of a frequent traveler than other early residents of the LES, Sam visited his family in Romania just two years later for "temporary residence," as specified in his 1926 passport, before returning once again to New York City.

Here, you can see a 24 year old Sam in his passport photo:

Collection of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum © 2010

Some 66 years later, in October of 1990, Sam, now "Seymore" as he preferred to be called later in life, contacted the Tenement Museum after reading about our search for 97 Orchard Street alumni in The Jewish Week.

In February of 1991, he commuted from his home in the Bronx to visit the Museum and generously recorded his childhood memories to tape. Some of his fondest were of "the verbal newspaper," the tenement's rooftop.

"Oh, the roof..." he said, "that was the promised land. When you went there you had the sun. And neighbors used to get together and schmooze over politics, and settle arguments, and gossip of course... You had to know what the neighbors were doing... what she cooked in the afternoon... whether he had a quarrel with his wife or not, and whether they made up... whether Hattie went out with Jimmy, and stuff like that. You had to know those things."

He told us the roof served a more practical purpose, too, as his parents needed to know if "someone had picked up a bargain or if there was a sale." During hard times, he said, "that was also a part of life."

Mr. Gottesman returned to the Tenement Museum in March of '91 to be interviewed for a Seattle radio program focused on Lower East Side immigrants, and in April he visited again for an interview with the Christian Science Monitor. Gracious as always, he took the museum's oral historian and researcher, Amy Berkson, out to lunch during each visit.

Sadly one year later Mr. Gottesman passed away at the age of 90, leaving behind a son, Tobias, living in Maryland.

Mr. Gottesman was a great asset to the Tenement Museum's early days and an interesting figure, balancing two cultures and their influences more literally than most immigrants who settled in New York City. From Romania to New York to Romania and back again, his story that sheds new light on what it means to be an immigrant in America.

-Posted by Joe Klarl

Friday, January 7, 2011

Yes, we're open today!

97 Orchard Street in the blizzard of 2006. (c) Don Farrell.

Though it's snowy outside (brrrr), the Tenement Museum is open. Today we have tours from 10:30 am - 5 pm. Call if you've got any questions - 212-982-8420.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Podcast: Collections Management and Conservation

An interview with Derya Golpinar, our collections manager and registrar. Derya talks about how she started working at the Tenement Museum, about the Museum's collections, and how we go about conserving a 147-year-old tenement building.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Unsung Immigrants: The Bonofiglios

The Tenement Museum is always compiling more information about the immigrants featured on our tours, but have you ever wondered about the thousands of other people who have lived at 97 Orchard Street? Well, we keep track of them too.

One of those families is the Bonofiglios. Like the Baldizzis, who are featured on the Getting By tour, the Bonofiglios were Italian immigrants who lived at 97 Orchard Street during the early 1930s. In fact, they lived just upstairs from the Baldizzi family.

Parents John and Rose Bonofiglio had two sons, Vincent and Anthony, with them in their small apartment. John's sister Rita Bonofiglio, or "Rita Bono," lived on the top floor.

Here you can see a family portrait featuring John, age 41, Vincent, age 4, and Rose, age 30, taken sometime in 1938 or '39:

Collection of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum © 2010
Adolfo Baldizzi, his wife Rosaria, and their two children Josephine and Johnny became fast friends with their neighbors.

John and Rose were Godparents to little Johnny and Josephine, and Rosaria Baldizzi was Godmother to Rita Bono. Anthony Bonofiglio recalls that Josephine may have even been the flower girl at his parents' wedding.

The following photograph shows Rita and and her Godmother at Rita's confirmation in 1937.

Collection of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum © 2010
Though John and Rose are now deceased, the Bonofiglio children still live nearby in areas of Brooklyn and New Jersey.

In 1939, Adolpho Baldizzi got a job in Brooklyn Navy Yard and his family left the Lower East Side, but they never forgot their friends. When Josephine spoke with the Tenement Museum in 1989, she told us that the Bonofiglios are "related with me now."

While we have more information today on the Baldizzis than the Bonofiglios, it's safe to say that many of 97 Orchard Street's residents wouldn't have been the same without their neighbors and the lifelong bonds that were forged there.

-Posted by Joe Klarl

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Wijnanda Deroo at Robert Mann Gallery

We just noticed that photographer Wijnanda Deroo has an exhibition entitled "Inside New York Eateries" at the Robert Mann Gallery. You can view some of her photographs here. The gallery show runs through January 29.

Ms. Deroo came to take photographs of the long-abandoned interior at 97 Orchard Street in the late 1980s. We have dozens of her haunting images in our collection - all of which you can see here, in the online photo database. Some favorites are below.

(In our collection we also have some of her images from around the neighborhood, including some of the bathhouse at 133 Allen Street that's now Church of Grace to Fujianese, and several of Becker Locksmith, located in what's now our own 103 Orchard Street, our new visitor center. Our charming handyman, exhibit installer, and jack-of-all-trades Bob, who's lived in the neighborhood for almost 40 years, got his first live-in girlfriend a key to his place there.)

- Posted by Kate

Photograph by Wijnanda Deroo. Collection of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum (c) 2010.

Photograph by Wijnanda Deroo. Collection of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum (c) 2010.

Photograph by Wijnanda Deroo. Collection of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum (c) 2010.

Photograph by Wijnanda Deroo. Collection of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum (c) 2010.

Photograph by Wijnanda Deroo. Collection of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum (c) 2010.

Monday, January 3, 2011



Having fun with History and Challah: Our New Family Literacy Program

I’ve managed the Museum’s ESOL program, Shared Journeys, for the last 3 years. It's been incredibly rewarding to develop new programs, write lesson plans, and pilot, promote and implement our workshops. New immigrants learning English always bring a different perspective to our museum. Over the last 5 years there’s been a growing demand to work with entire immigrant families. In response to this, we’ve recently launched a Family Literacy program, a new way to teach English and learn about adjusting to life in the U.S. Participating families come together to have fun, learn and adjust to a new life together.

Visiting the Rogarshevsky home at 97 Orchard
Last week, with the help of collaborators including La Guardia Community College’s Center for Immigrant Education and Training and the Fifth Avenue Committee, we piloted this new Family Literacy program. Ten families took a couple of hours from their busy lives for a multi-session program to spend time together, learn about immigration history, compare their own stories to the ones in the past and have fun as a family. We shared the story of the Rogarshevsky family, an observant Lithuanian-Jewish family that lived in our building in 1915. We titled the workshop “Preserving Tradition in a New Environment” because the family struggled with preserving their Jewish faith while working long hours in garment factories. Abraham, Fannie and their 6 children lived in a small tenement apartment of 97 Orchard Street.

Making collages about favorite family activities

With the help of Kathryn Lloyd, Jess Varma and Raj Varma we told the story of how the American work week often compelled Jewish immigrants—especially children—to work on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath. The Sabbath is an important day of rest sacred for an observant Jewish family. This story sparked reactions from the Shared Journeys families. I recall a Peruvian family sharing how difficult it was for them to have to work during Christmas. In their native land this was a time to rest and not work. A Pakistani-Muslim family shared how they would try to work around their religious beliefs. For example, the father of the family runs a little shop and this allows him to shut down in order to pray five times a day.

Some of the families got to come back to the Museum and use our brand-new demonstration kitchen to try their hands at making traditional Challah bread like the Rogarshevsky family would have eaten. Miriam Bader led them through a simple demonstration, and the families got to take some samples home and bake them. At the end all of them got to share their own recipes for Christmas.
It’s been exciting to watch this program come together. My hope is that many more immigrant families will experience it in the months to come.

Braiding dough for Challah

--Posted by Education Associate Pedro Garcia