Remembering the Lower East Side: American Jewish Reflections

2000
Indiana University Press

For more than a century, the Lower East Side of New York City has been recognized and scrutinized as the largest and most vibrant immigrant Jewish neighborhood in America. In recent years a spate of art works, performances, and tourist productions have fostered increased interest in the neighborhood. This lively book explores the dynamics of Lower East Side memory and considers the changing ways that this unique neighborhood has been embraced by American Jews over the course of a century. Part 1, "The Dynamics of Remembrance," investigates multiple facets of life on the Lower East Side and considers the emerging repertoire of memory that took shape around the neighborhood. Themes include the naming of the Lower East Side, a century of photography of the neighborhood, and the colorful histories of synagogues and schools, restaurants and cabarets. Part 2, "Contemporary Recollections," examines the recent upsurge of interest in the Lower East Side as a site of Jewish heritage and cultural innovation. Topics include the creation of the Tenement Museum, walking tours of the neighborhood and visits to popular "period" restaurants, the experience of a documentary filmmaker, and the performance of memory in a refurbished synagogue. A generous selection of photographs enhances the book’s wide-ranging insights into how the Lower East Side became a touchstone of Jewish identity and history.