The Tenement Museum on the lower east side of Manhattan offers visitors a chance to see what life was like for the millions of immigrants who came to America between 1863 and 1935. Come check it out.
Looking for some education about America’s cultural melting pot?
Manhattan’s Lower East Side has been home to several generations of immigrants from nations all over the world. From the Irish made famous by Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York,” to the Bowery Boys of lower Third Avenue, the matchmaking grandma of “Crossing Delancey” or the recent Taiwanese arrivals in the comedy, “The Wedding Banquet,” it’s a neighborhood made famous by popular literature and culture. Your kids probably think PeeWee and his friends from “The Little Rascals” practically own the place!
As a founding member of the International Coalition of Historic Site Museums of Conscience, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum (212/982-8420; Ticket Sales at 108 Orchard Street, New York, NY 10002) has a mission to raise awareness about immigrant and migrant experiences in the area.
The museum operates with a series of tours and programs, including several Tenement Tours of re-created apartments in a five-story building where about 7,000 people from over 20 countries lived between 1863 and 1935. Your family can visit the homes of the German-Jewish Gumpertz and Italian-Catholic Baldizzi families on the “Getting By: Immigrants Weathering Hard Times” tour, focusing on the effects of the economic depressions of 1870 and 1930 on life on the Lower East Side.
On the “Piecing It Together: Immigrants in the Garment Industry” tour, you can visit the apartments of the Rogarshevsky and Levine families and learn about the influence of the garment industry on the lives of immigrants. The “Confino Family Tour” enables you to meet with Victoria Confino (a costumed interpreter), a Sephardic-Jewish teen who lived in the tenement in 1916, to discuss family, assimilation, cultural identity and community in her adopted country. Guided tours change often and explore the lives of Irish-Americans and others; a Neighborhood Walking Tour to see landmarks and learn about the customs of our forebearers is fun to do, too.
FTF member A. Cohen of Maryland wrote us about her visit to New York with her daughter, “It was one of the most interesting things we did in a city filled with lots of neat stuff to do.”
When you’re ready for a break — and of course you will be — walk a few blocks to Katz’ Deli at 205 East Houston at Ludlow for a pastrami sandwich. Picky eaters might prefer a potato knish (a blob of mashed potatoes served in a dough pocket) or one of the more ‘tame’ sandwiches or soups. A must-do follow up is a vist to Il Laboratorio del Gelato at 95 Orchard Street between Broome and Delancey, almost across from the Tenement Museum. This laboratory of Italian ice cream is where new flavors emerge daily for the city’s top gourmet eateries; sample the day’s special for a fraction of the price you’d pay at Bouley or Jean-Georges.
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