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jewish lower east side
The Jewish Heritage Walking Tours provide an
opportunity for you to explore Manhattan’s Lower East Side in a series
of four self-guided walks. You will discover the history of an area
reflecting the lives of early waves of immigrants and become familiar
with the present Jewish community. You will view century-old synagogues,
yeshivas, tenements, and settlement houses. Along the way you will be
guided through today’s vibrant neighborhood with its enduring Jewish
infrastructure and thriving retail culture of shops and restaurants.
These tours are offered as an introduction to the Lower East Side. Look
for an illustrated in-depth walking tour guidebook by Joyce Mendelsohn
to be published by the South Manhattan Development Corp. in the spring
Each of the four tours will take approximately one-and-one-half-hours to complete. Together they cover a large area of the Lower East Side and require considerable walking. Ideally you should plan to spend the entire day on the Lower East Side but follow only one tour during each visit. That way you will have time to experience the neighborhood on your own, to sample some of the local Jewish delicacies, and to step into the numerous shops offering a large selection of merchandise at discount prices. The best time to visit is Sunday through Friday. Many stores and restaurants close early on Friday afternoon and remain closed on Saturday for the Jewish Sabbath. Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring your camera to capture some of the unique sights to be found only on New York’s Lower East Side.
with special thanks to www.thelowereastside.org
The tour begins at the Eldridge Street Synagogue, 12 Eldridge
Street on the block below Canal Street. Take the B, D, or Q train to
Grand Street. Walk two blocks east to Eldridge Street, turn right and
walk two-and-a-half blocks south. By bus take the M15, the Second Avenue
bus, to Allen and Canal Streets. Turn right and walk one block west on
Canal to Eldridge Street. Turn left and walk another half block.
I-1 Eldridge Street Synagogue, Congregation K’Hal Adath Jeshurun with Anshe Lubz (Community of the People of Israel with the People of Lubz), 12 Eldridge Street. 1886-1887.
This was the first great house of worship in America constructed by Eastern European Jews. Members included Isaac Gellis, Al Jolson, Jonas Salk, and Linus Pauling. In the 1970s the Eldridge Street Project was formed to restore and preserve the synagogue and renew the space with educational and cultural programs. The Orthodox congregation continues to worship here and has never missed a Sabbath service since 1887. The landmark façade combines elements of Moorish, Gothic, and Romanesque design. Open to the public. Don’t miss the video on the history of the Lower East Side. Call (212) 219-0888 for information and hours.
I-2 Birthplace of Eddie Cantor, 19 Eldridge Street.
The popular actor was born in this tenement on January 31, 1892.
Walk half a block south on Eldridge Street to Division Street. Turn left. Cross Pike Street and turn right.
I-3 Former Congregation Sons of Israel Kalwarie, 15 Pike Street. 1903-1904.
Known as the Pike Street Synagogue, the shul was founded by Polish and Russian immigrants in 1853. Its vast interior space was favored for large events and ceremonies such as rabbinical ordinations. Sold in 1994 to Chinese owners, the building was converted to a the Sung Tak Buddhist Temple, commercial and residential space.
Walk north to East Broadway and turn right.
I-4 Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem of America, (Beauty of Jerusalem) 145-147 East Broadway.
Established in 1907, this Yeshiva is one of the oldest in America. Alumni serve as rabbinical, professional, and lay leaders in Jewish communities nationally and internationally. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, the world’s leading Talmudic scholar, was at the head of the Yeshiva for more than 50 years until his death in 1986. His son, Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, succeeded him in that position.
Walk to Rutgers Street and turn right. Continue to Henry Street and turn left.
I-5 Former House of Sages, 152 Henry Street. 1940.
Founded in 1922 this unique institution was a center for prayer and study for retired rabbis. In the early 1990s the House of Sages moved to 283 Henry Street and this building was remodeled as a Buddhist Temple.
I-6 Former Rabbi Jacob Joseph School, 165-167 Henry Street. 1912-1913.
The Yeshiva was formed in 1901 and a year later named for New York’s first and only Chief Rabbi. Two limestone tablets inscribed in Hebrew honoring the house of study surmount the arched entrance. In 1976 after the Yeshiva moved to Staten Island the building was altered for apartments.
Return to Rutgers Street and walk to East Broadway. Turn right on East Broadway.
I-7 Annual outdoor market, junction of Canal and Division Streets.
In the days prior to the festival of Succoth (Feast of Tabernacles) sidewalk vendors sell lulavim (palm branches), esrogim (citron), hadassim (myrtle branches), and aravos (willow branches) for the decoration of Succot.
I-8 Straus Square, originally Rutgers Square, intersection of East Broadway, Rutgers, and Essex Streets.
Named for an early landowner, Rutgers Square was the center of political activity in the immigrant Jewish community. It was renamed in 1931 in honor of philanthropist Nathan Straus.
Cross to the park side of East Broadway.
I-9 Seward Park, East Broadway to Hester Street between Essex and Jefferson Streets. 1900.
The park replaced decaying tenements with open space, benches, trees, a fully equipped playground, and public baths.
Look across the street.
I-10 Former Garden Cafeteria, now Wing Shoong Restaurant, 165 East Broadway.
A legendary gathering place for Yiddish journalists, writers, intellectuals, and workers.
I-11 Former Daily Forward Building. 173 East Broadway. 1912. Alterations 1999.
Founded in 1895, the Forward was the leading Socialist paper on the Yiddish newspaper row along East Broadway. It advocated social reform and instructed newcomers in the ways of American life. A popular feature was the Bintel Brief (Bundle of Letters) which answered questions from readers. The paper’s renowned editor, Abraham Kahan was one of the most influential Jews of his time. In 1974 the Forward moved to midtown where it now publishes editions in Yiddish, Russian, and English. Currently the landmark building is being remodeled for condominium apartments.
Continue walking down East Broadway.
Educational Alliance, 197 East Broadway. 1889. Remodeled 1969.
Look across the street.
I-13 Seward Park Branch, New York Public Library, 192 East Broadway. 1909.
One of the libraries in the network of branches endowed by industrialist Andrew Carnegie, it was built with an open-air reading room on the roof overlooking Seward Park. The collection includes volumes of Judaica in English, Hebrew, and Yiddish and circulates books in Chinese, Spanish, Russian, and Hebrew as well as English.
Continue walking along East Broadway.
I-14 Young Israel Synagogue of Manhattan, 225-229 East Broadway.
Founded in 1912 as a religious-intellectual movement by second generation, English-speaking Jews, its purpose was to promote Orthodox life among Jewish youth. With Rabbi Yeshaya Siff as the spiritual leader, Young Israel Synagogue is one of the fastest-growing congregations on the Lower East Side with a large membership of families.
I–15 Algemeiner Journal, 225 East Broadway.
Begun in 1972 by Gershon Jacobson, publisher and editor, the Yiddish-English weekly has a national circulation.
I-16 Bialystoker Home for the Aged, 228 East Broadway. 1931.
Chartered in 1864, the Bialystok Mutual Aid Society was New York’s first landsmanshaft (mutual benefit society). It is a 95-bed, skilled, modern nursing facility providing care for the elderly of the community.
I-17 Mural on the wall of 232 East Broadway. c. 1970.
The painted wall mural is inscribed, "Our strength is our heritage. Our heritage is our life" and represents major concerns of the Jewish community on the Lower East Side.
I-18 Shtieblach, East Broadway between Clinton and Montgomery Streets.
Many still-active small Orthodox congregations are to be found in former row houses and tenements along the block. Several have been in existence for more than100 years.
I-19 United Jewish Council of the East Side Inc., 235 East Broadway.
For almost 25 years the Council has provided services and guidance for over 50 community organizations and synagogues, assisting some 15,000 Lower East Side residents annually.
You have completed
Tour One and are ready to explore the neighborhood on your own. Retrace
your steps back to Essex Street where you will find a variety of
restaurants and shops. Be sure to stop at the Visitors Center of the
Lower East Side Business Improvement District at 261 Broome Street (just
west of Orchard Street) to pick up free maps and brochures of the
neighborhood. The famous shopping district is concentrated along Orchard
Street and the surrounding blocks.
The tour begins at Henry Street Settlement, 263-267 Henry Street. If you
are continuing from Tour One, resume walking on East Broadway and turn
right at Montgomery Street. Walk to Henry Street and turn left.
If you are just beginning the tour, take the F train to East Broadway and walk east to Montgomery Street. Turn right and walk one block to Henry Street. Or take the 14th Street-A crosstown bus to Grand and Montgomery Streets and walk two blocks south to Henry Street.
Tour Three: The tour begins alongside the brick wall on the east side of Essex Street between Grand and Broome Streets. If you are continuing the walk from Tour Two, return to Grand Street and turn right. Continue to Essex Street, turn right and walk north along the wall.
If you are just beginning this tour, take the F, J, M or Z train to Delancey Street. Walk south down Essex Street and look for a plaque on the brick wall between Broome and Grand Streets.
III-1 Plaque marking the founding of B’nai Brith, on the brick wall, east side of Essex Street between Broome and Grand Streets. Dedicated July 4, 1976.
B’nai Brith (Sons of the Covenant) was organized in a café at this site on October 13, 1843 when 12 young German-speaking Jewish men decided to form a group to assist new immigrants. It flourishes today as the oldest and largest Jewish service organization in the world.
Walk down Essex Street.
III-2 Seward Park High School, Grand Street from Essex to Ludlow Streets. 1929.
Over the years, thousands of teen-agers, mainly immigrants and children of immigrants, have attended this New York City public high school. Famous graduates, to name a few, were Bernie Schwartz (Tony Curtis), Walter Matthau, and Zero Mostel.
Continue walking down Essex Street. Along the way you will find restaurants, food stores, shops selling religious articles, and the legendary Gus’s Pickles. Turn right on Hester Street.
III-3 Hester Street, from Essex to Ludlow Streets.
The street is well known through the film of the same name based on the novel, Yekl, by Abraham Cahan, long-time editor of the Forward. Three stores selling Jewish delicacies are located on the north side of the block. They are Kadouri Import Corp. near the corner of Essex Street, Gertel’s Bake Shoppe in the middle of the block, and The Sweet Life on the corner of Ludlow Street.
III-4 Khazzer Market (pig market), Hester Street near Ludlow Street.
This ironically named block was crowded with pushcarts where shoppers could buy just about everything (except for pork). New immigrants would cluster here in the morning hoping to be selected for a day of low-wage labor.
Turn left on Ludlow Street. Walk one block south and stop just before Canal Street.
III-5 Former Independent Kletzker Brotherly Aid Society, 5 Ludlow Street. 1892.
Established by immigrants from the Polish town of Kletz, this landsmanshaft was one of the hundreds of self-help organizations that flourished on the Lower East Side.
Continue walking to Canal Street. Turn right to Orchard Street.
III-6 Former Jarmulovsky’s Bank, 54-58 Canal Street. 1912.
At the time of construction this imposing 12-story classical-style structure was the tallest building on the Lower East Side. It housed a private bank that failed in 1914 leaving stunned and angry immigrant depositors in despair.
Turn right on Orchard Street.
III-7 Tenement, 47 Orchard Street.
Look for the Stars of David in white terra cotta above the third-story windows.
Begin walking up Orchard Street.
III-8 Orchard Street.
The famed shopping street of the Lower East Side lined with unique one-of-a-kind stores draws shoppers from around the globe. On Orchard Street and the surrounding blocks shoppers can find a wide array of quality merchandise at discount prices. Most of the shops began as Jewish mom-and-pop retailers and many of them are still family-owned. In recent years older businesses have expanded and newer ones like art galleries and designer shops have opened, enriching the traditional retail culture of the Lower East Side.
Turn left at Hester Street and walk a few steps.
III-9 Former Roumanian Synagogue, 70 Hester Street.
Look for the Moorish-style windows on the upper stories marking an earlier building of the First Roumanian Synagogue located on Rivington Street. (IV-8)
Return to Orchard Street and continue walking north.
III-10 Visitor’s Center, Lower East Side Business Improvement District, 261 Broome Street (just west of Orchard Street).
Drop in to pick up free maps and brochures locating shops, restaurants, and cultural attraction in the neighborhood.
III-11 Lower East Side Tenement Museum. Gallery, 90 Orchard Street. Tenement building, 97 Orchard Street. 1863.
It is estimated that more than 7,000 people from 25 countries lived in the six-story brick building at 97 Orchard Street from its opening in 1863 until 1935 when the 22 apartments were sealed after new housing codes were enforced by the city. The Museum conducts several tours daily of restored apartments that reflect the lives of actual families who once lived there. Tickets are purchased in the Gallery shop where a slide show is available for viewing free of charge.
Walk west on Broome Street. Cross Allen Street.
III-12 Congregation Kehillah Kadosha Janina. 280 Broome Street. 1927.
Founded in 1906, this is the only Greek synagogue in New York and the only synagogue in the Western Hemisphere of Romaniote Jews, an obscure division of Judaism whose history can be traced to Roman times. The synagogue, along with a museum on the second floor, is open to the public on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Return to Allen Street. Walk north to Delancey Street.
III-13 Former Hebrew Publishing Company, 79 Delancey Street.
Originally a private Jewish bank, the Classical-style edifice was occupied from the early 1930s until the late 1970s by a leading publisher of Hebrew and Yiddish books. Look for the faded wall sign facing Allen Street.
Turn left on Delancey Street and walk two blocks west to Forsyth Street.
III–14 Former Forsyth Street Synagogue, Poel Zedek Anshei Illia (Doers of Good, People of Illia). Now Iglesia Adventista Del 7 Mo. Dia, 43 Delancey Street. 1900.
A congregation of Lithuanian immigrants erected this Romanesque Revival building with a row of retail stores on the ground floor to provide income for the synagogue.
This is the end of Tour Three. Walk back along Delancey Street to the shops and restaurants on Orchard Street and the surrounding blocks. Ratner’s is located nearby at 138 Delancey Street.
The tour begins on the east side of Allen Street just below Rivington
Street. If you are continuing the walk from Tour Three, walk two blocks
east to Allen Street and turn left. Walk up Allen Street for half a
block. Look across the street.
If you are just beginning this tour, take the B, D, or Q train to Grand and Chrystie Streets. Walk east to Allen Street and turn left. Walk up Allen Street to the block between Delancey and Rivington Streets. Or take the F, J, M or Z train to Delancey Street. Walk west on Delancey Street to Allen Street. Turn right and walk half a block. By bus, take the M 15, Second Avenue bus to Rivington Street. Walk half a block south.
IV-1 Former Public Bath House, 133-135 Allen Street. 1905.
Constructed as "stream baths" with private shower stalls, the city-owned building was sold at auction to a Chinese church in 1992.
Walk to Rivington Street and turn left.
|with special thanks to www.thelowereastside.org|