My walking trail of Jewish Manhattan
using Oscar Israelowitz’s book, Jewish Heritage Trail of New York as my guide. With Google Maps, I was able to plan and enjoy without wasting time and energy, and so had an amazing experience.
My photos are mostly in the form of slideshows with Wikipedia providing further info.
Lower East Side
Stop 81: The Birthplace of B’nai B’rith
Essex Street, between Grand and Broome on the East side
Plaque marking the site at 60 Essex Street on 13 October 1843, once Sinsheimer’s Cafe
|Motto||The Global Voice of the Jewish Community|
|Formation||October 13, 1843|
|President||Allan J. Jacobs|
|Chairman of the Executive||Gary P. Saltzman|
B’nai B’rith International (English pronunciation: /bəˌneɪ ˈbrɪθ/, from Hebrew: בני ברית b’né brit, “Children of the Covenant“), is the oldestJewish service organization in the world. B’nai B’rith states that it is committed to the security and continuity of the Jewish people and the State of Israel and combating antisemitism and bigotry. Its mission is to unite persons of the Jewish faith and to enhance Jewish identity through strengthening Jewish family life, to provide broad-based services for the benefit of senior citizens, and to facilitate advocacy and action on behalf of Jews throughout the world.
B’nai B’rith was founded in Aaron Sinsheimer’s café in New York City‘s Lower East Side on October 13, 1843, by 12 recent German Jewish immigrants led by Henry Jones. The new organization represented an attempt to organize Jews of the local community to confront what Isaac Rosenbourg, one of the founders, called “the deplorable condition of Jews in this, our newly adopted country”. The new group’s purpose, as described in its constitution, called for the traditional functions performed by Jewish societies in Europe: “Visiting and attending the sick” and “protecting and assisting the widow and the orphan.” Its founders had hoped that it soon would encompass all Jews in the United States, but this did not happen, since other Jewish organizations also were forming around the same time.
With their Yiddish heritage, the founders originally named the organization Söhne des Bundes (Sons of the Covenant) to reflect their goal of a fraternal order that could provide comfort to the entire spectrum of Jewish Americans. Although early meetings were conducted in Yiddish, after a short time English emerged as the language of choice and the name was changed to B’nai B’rith. In the late 20th century, the translation was changed to the more contemporary and inclusive Children of the Covenant.
Despite its fraternal and local beginnings, B’nai B’rith spoke out for Jewish rights early in its history and used its growing national chain of lodges as a way to exercise political influence on behalf of world Jewry. In 1851, for example, it circulated petitions urging Secretary of State Daniel Webster to demand the end of Jewish disabilities in Switzerland, during on-going trade negotiations. Into the 1920s the B’nai B’rith continued in its political work by joining in Jewish delegations and lobbying efforts through which American Jews sought to influence public policy, both domestic and foreign. B’nai B’rith also played a crucial role in transnational Jewish politics. The later spread of the organization around the world made it a nerve center of intra-Jewish communication and mutual endeavor.
Stop 82: Seward Park High School
350 Grand Street
Built in 1929 on the site of the old Ludlow Street Prison. The school was named in honour of Secretary of State, William Seward, responsible for buying Alaska from Russia. The purchase was known as “Sewards Folly”.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Stop 83: Beth Hamedrash Hagadol
60 Norfolk Street
The Gothic Revival building was built in 1852 as the Norfolk Baptish Church. Purchased in 1885 by the Orthodox Jewish Congregation.
In 1899 Rabbi Jacob Joseph of Vilna was appointed the Rabbi
Beth Hamedrash Hagodol
|Beth Hamedrash Hagodol
(Norfolk Street Baptist Church)
|Location||60–64 Norfolk Street,
Manhattan, New York City
|Leadership||Rabbi Mendl Greenbaum|
Schneider & Herter
|Architectural style||Gothic Revival|
|Direction of façade||West|
stucco over brick
|U.S. National Register of Historic Places|
|Added to NRHP:||November 30, 1999|
|NRHP Reference No.||99001438|
Beth Hamedrash Hagodol (Hebrew: בֵּית הַמִּדְרָש הַגָּדוֹל, “Great Study House”) is an Orthodox Jewish congregation that for over 120 years was located in a historic building at 60–64 Norfolk Street between Grand and Broome Streets in the Lower East Sideneighborhood of Manhattan, New York City. It was the first Eastern European congregation founded in New York City and the oldestRussian Jewish Orthodox congregation in the United States.
Founded in 1852 by Rabbi Abraham Ash as Beth Hamedrash, the congregation split in 1859, with the rabbi and most of the members renaming their congregation Beth Hamedrash Hagodol. The congregation’s president and a small number of the members eventually formed the nucleus of Kahal Adath Jeshurun, also known as the Eldridge Street Synagogue. Rabbi Jacob Joseph, the first and onlyChief Rabbi of New York City, led the congregation from 1888 to 1902. Rabbi Ephraim Oshry, one of the few European Jewish legal decisors to survive the Holocaust, led the congregation from 1952 to 2003.
The congregation’s building, a Gothic Revival structure built in 1850 as the Norfolk Street Baptist Church and purchased in 1885, was one of the largest synagogues on the Lower East Side. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. In the late 20th century the congregation dwindled and was unable to maintain the building, which had been damaged by storms. Despite their obtaining funding and grants, the structure was critically endangered.
The synagogue was closed in 2007. The congregation, reduced to around 20 regularly attending members, was sharing facilities with a congregation on Henry Street. The Lower East Side Conservancy was trying to raise an estimated $4.5 million for repairs of the building, with the intent of converting it to an educational center. In December 2012, it was reported that the leadership of the synagogue under Rabbi Mendel Greenbaum filed a “hardship application” with the Landmarks Preservation Commission seeking permission to demolish the building to make way for a new residential development.
Norfolk Street building
The congregation’s building at 60–64 Norfolk Street, between Grand Street and Broome Street on the Lower East Side, had originally been the Norfolk Street Baptist Church. Founded in 1841 when the Stanton Street Baptist Church congregation split, the members had first worshiped in an existing church building at Norfolk and Broome. In 1848 they officially incorporated and began construction of a new building, which was dedicated in January 1850.
For more details, visit:
Jacob Joseph (1840–July 28, 1902) served as chief rabbi of New York City’s Association of American Orthodox Hebrew Congregations, a federation of Eastern European Jewish synagogues. Born in Krozhe, a province of Kovno, he studied in the Nevyozer Kloiz under Rabbi Yisrael Salanter and in the Volozhin yeshiva under the Netziv. In Volozhin, he was known as “Rav Yaakov Charif” (Rabbi Jacob Sharp) because of his sharp mind.
The Rabbi Jacob Joseph School is named after him, and a playground is named after and honors the memory of a great-grandson of Rabbi Jacob Joseph who carried his name.
The Jewish community of New York wanted to be united under a common religious authority, and although the Reform and Liberal factions ridiculed the idea, the mainly RussianOrthodox Ashkenazi community sent a circular offering the post throughout Eastern Europe.
Rabbi Jacob Joseph was among those offered the prestigious position. He hesitated in coming to America, aware that there were fewer religious Jews. Nevertheless, in 1888 he accepted the challenge in order to support his family, and also because he faced severe debt in Russia. The Association of American Orthodox Hebrew Congregations—comprising 18 congregations and headed by Beth Hamedrash Hagadol—was thrilled when he accepted the position.
They attempted to create one central rabbinic authority in America to maintain order in the field of Kashrus and expand Jewish education programs. Their idea ultimately failed. Although Joseph certainly possessed the credentials needed, he was confronted with many problems, primarily diverse groups of Jews, which also included anti-religious factions and Communists.
His tenure was marked by the divisiveness of New York Jewry, and the polemic of the kosher slaughterhouses of the city. Vehemently anti-religious Yiddish newspapers such as Die Wahrheit (English: “The Truth”) unleashed their wrath, spreading false and malicious rumours about the chief rabbi’s personal life.
Eventually, after six years, the Association stopped paying his salary. The butchers then paid him until 1895.
Although Joseph fought a losing battle in the kosher meat and poultry industry, he managed to achieve some notable accomplishments, including the hiring of qualified shochtim, introducing irremovable seals (“plumba”) to identify kosher birds, and setting up Mashgichim to oversee slaughter houses. He also took an active role in establishing the Etz Chaim Yeshiva—the first yeshiva on the Lower East Side, which was founded in 1886. (It was the forerunner of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary).
- Le’Beis Yaakov (Vilna, 1888), a collection of homilies and novellæ.
In 1897, Joseph suffered a stroke, which incapacitated him for the rest of his life. He died at age 62 and his funeral was one of the largest in New York, attended by more than 50,000 Jews. Unfortunately, it was partly marred by a public disturbance in which a number of people were injured. Employees of R. Hoe & Company, manufacturer of printing presses, threw water, paper, wood, and iron from the upper floors of the factory at 504 Grand Street. 200 policemen responded to the call, hitting and pushing the mourners. Some of Hoe’s employees, who had been harassing local Jews for some time, joined the police in the riot and beat mourners.
After Joseph’s death, a succession dispute diluted the office of Chief Rabbi and the title was effectively worthless.
Ironically, after Joseph’s death many congregations began to give him the honor which they had withheld during his life. Aside from the tens of thousands that came to see him lying on his death bed, forty rabbis gathered in the cemetery for the funeral. Each one vied with his colleague to give him a better eulogy.
The congregations also competed with each other, each one desiring to bury him in its own cemetery. Congregation Adath Israel on Elridge Street promised to give his widow $1,000 on the spot and $10 a week all the rest of her life. Congregation Beis HaMidrash HaGadol was permitted to bury him in their plot at the Union Field Cemetery in Ridgewood, Queens. This became a good business venture, for the plots near the grave of the chief rabbi became extremely valuable. The widow received the amount promised for several years, and then they stopped sending her the money.
Jacob Joseph Playground
A playground on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, bounded by Henry and Rutgers Streets, is named in memory of Captain Jacob Joseph (1920–1942), great-grandson of Rabbi Jacob Joseph. Captain Joseph was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II, and scion of a family devoted to religious education and civic affairs.
Born and raised in New York, Joseph left Columbia University as a junior in 1938 to enlist in the Marines. Joseph died in action at Guadalcanal on October 22, 1942. Five years later, a local law named this playground in his honor. The dedication ceremony was attended by Mayor William O’Dwyer, Parks Commissioner Robert Moses, Councilman Stanley Isaacs, and Captain Joseph’s father Lazarus Joseph – a Democratic Party leader who was a six time State Senator and New York City’s Comptroller at the time.
NYC Department of Parks and Recreation also unveiled a bronze commemorative plaque on the flagstaff, which celebrates the life and bravery of Captain Joseph. This playground was built in part to meet the needs of the Rabbi Jacob Joseph School, located at the time on Henry St. The playground serves as a lasting memorial to a World War II hero, as well as to notable members of the Joseph family who have contributed to the surrounding neighborhood and to the larger New York City community.
Stop 84: Church of Saint Mary
440 Grand Street
Oldest RC structure in New York City.
Stop 85: Henry Street Settlement Playhouse
466 Grand Street
Henry Street Settlement
Henry Street Settlement
and Neighborhood Playhouse
The Henry Street Settlement is a not-for-profit social service agency in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City that provides social services, arts programs and health care services to New Yorkers of all ages. It was founded in 1893 by Progressive reformer and nurse Lillian Wald.
The Settlement serves about 50,000 people each year. Clients include low-income individuals and families, survivors of domestic violence, youngsters ages 2 through 21, individuals with mental and physical health challenges, senior citizens, and arts and culture enthusiasts who attend performances, classes and exhibitions at Henry Street’s Abrons Arts Center.
The Settlement’s administrative offices are still located in its original (c. 1832) federal row houses at 263, 265 and 267 Henry Streetin Manhattan. Services are offered at 17 program sites throughout the area, many of them located in buildings operated by the New York City Housing Authority.
The Settlement’s buildings at 263, 265 and 267 Henry Street were designated New York City landmarks in 1966, and these buildings, along with the Neighborhood Playhouse building at 466 Grand Street, were collectively designated a National Historic Landmark in 1989.
Stop 86: Bialystoker Synagogue
7 Bialystoker (Willett) Street
(Willett Street Methodist Episcopal Church)
|Location||7-13 Bialystoker Place
Manhattan, New York City
|Architectural style||Federal Style|
|NRHP Reference #||72000861|
|Added to NRHP||April 26, 1972|
|Designated NYCL||April 19, 1966|
The Bialystoker Synagogue at 7-11 Bialystoker Place, formerly Willett Street, between Grand and Broome Streets in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City is an Orthodox Jewish synagogue. The building was constructed in 1826 as theWillett Street Methodist Episcopal Church; the synagogue purchased the building in 1905.
The synagogue was designated a New York City Landmark in 1966. It is one of only four early-19th century fieldstone religious buildings surviving from the late Federal period in Lower Manhattan, and is the oldest building used as a synagogue in New York City.
The Bialystoker Synagogue was first organized in 1865 on Manhattan’s Lower East Side as the Chevra Anshei Chesed of Bialystok, founded by a group of Jews who came from town of Białystok in Poland. The congregation was begun in a building on Hester Street, it later moved to Orchard Street, and ultimately to its present location 7-11 Bialystoker Place on the Lower East Side.
In order to accommodate the influx of new immigrants from that area of Poland, in 1905 the congregation merged with congregation Adas Yeshurun, also from Bialystok, and formed the Beit Ha-Knesset Anshei Bialystok (The Bialystoker Synagogue). The newly formed congregation then purchased (and moved into) the Willett Street Methodist Episcopal Church at 7 Willet Street, which was later renamed Bialystoker Place. During the Great Depression a decision was made to beautify the main sanctuary, to provide a sense of hope and inspiration to the community.
The fieldstone Methodist Episcopal Church building was built in 1826 with a simple pedimented roof and round arched windows. The building is made of Manhattan schist from a quarry on nearby Pitt Street. The exterior is marked by three windows over three doors framed with round arches, a low flight of brownstone steps, a low pitched pediment roof with a lunette window and a wooden cornice.
As the synagogue is home to an Orthodox Jewish congregation, a balcony section was constructed to accommodate female congregants. In the corner of the women’s gallery a small hidden door in the wall that leads to a ladder going up to an attic, lit by two windows was constructed. When it was first opened, the building was a rest stop for the Underground Railroad movement; runaway slaves found sanctuary in this attic.
When the air conditioning was updated in the 1990s, an issue arose in the construction of rooftop units because of the building’s historical landmark status. Because of these concerns, the cooling units were installed on the side of the building.
In 1988, the congregation restored the interior to its original splendor, and the former Hebrew school building that is attached, but had become dilapidated, was renovated and reopened as The Daniel Potkorony Building. The magnificent stained glass windows were recently completely recreated and renewed.
Stop 87: Williamsburg Bridge
East end of Delancey Street.
|Carries||8 lanes of roadway,
2 tracks of the trains of the New York City Subway,
pedestrians, and bicycles
|Locale||Manhattan and Brooklyn, in New York City|
|Maintained by||New York City Department of Transportation|
|Designer||Leffert L. Buck|
|Design||Suspension bridge and truss causeways|
|Total length||7,308 feet (2,227 m)|
|Width||118 feet (36 m)|
|Longest span||1,600 feet (490 m)|
|Vertical clearance||10 feet 6 inches (3.2 m) (inner roadways only)|
|Clearance below||135 feet (41 m) at mean high water|
|Opened||December 19, 1903|
|Daily traffic||106,783 (2008)|
Manhattan at Delancey St. with the Williamsburgneighborhood of Brooklyn
The Williamsburg Bridge is a suspension bridge in New York City across the East River connecting the Lower East Side of Manhattan at Delancey Street with the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn at Broadway near the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway (Interstate 278). It once carried New York State Route 27A and was planned to carry Interstate 78, though these plans were aborted by the cancellation of the Lower Manhattan Expressway and Bushwick Expressway.
Stop 88: Lower East Side Tenement Museum
90 Orchard Street
We did Sweat Shop tour two years ago. Here are some street photos.
Lower East Side Tenement Museum
Lower East Side Tenement Museum
(Tenement Building at 97 Orchard Street)
|Location||97 Orchard Street,Manhattan, New York10002|
|NRHP Reference #||92000556|
|Added to NRHP||May 19, 1992|
|Designated NHL||April 19, 1994|
|Designated NHS||November 12, 1998|
The Lower East Side Tenement Museum, located at 97 Orchard Street in the Lower East Side neighborhood of Manhattan, New York City, is a National Historic Site. The five-story brick tenement building was home to an estimated 7,000 people, from over 20 nations, between 1863 and 1935. The museum, which includes a visitors’ center down the block, promotes tolerance and historical perspective on theimmigrant experience.
The building at 97 Orchard Street was contracted by Prussian-born immigrant Lukas Glockner in 1863 and was modified several times to conform with the city’s developing housing laws. When first constructed, it contained 22 apartments and a basement level saloon. Over time, four stoop-level and two basement apartments were converted into commercial retail space, leaving 16 apartments in the building. Modifications over the years included the installation of indoor plumbing (cold running water, two toilets per floor), an air shaft, and gas followed by electricity. In 1935, rather than continue to modify the building, the landlord evicted the residents, boarded the upper windows, and sealed the upper floors, leaving only the stoop-level and basement storefronts open for business. No further changes were made until the Lower East Side Tenement Museum became involved with the building in 1988. As such, the building stands as a kind of time capsule, reflecting 19th and early 20th century living conditions and the changing notions of what constitutes acceptable housing.
In spite of the restoration, some parts of the upper floors are unstable and remain closed.
The Tenement Museum was founded in 1988 by Ruth J. Abram and Anita Jacobson. The Museum’s key property, the tenement at 97 Orchard Street, was designated a National Historic Landmark on April 19, 1994. The National Historic Site was authorized on November 12, 1998. It is an affiliated area of the National Park Service but is owned and administered by the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. The site received a Save America’s Treasures matching grant for $250,000 in 2000 for preservation work. In 2001 the museum was awarded theRudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence silver medal. In 2005, the museum was among 406 New York City arts and social service institutions to receive part of a $20 million grant from the Carnegie Corporation, which was made possible through a donation by New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The Tenement Museum attracted some negative press related to its employees seeking union membership as well as for its planned acquisition of the building at 99 Orchard Street through eminent domain.
Exhibits, collections, and programs
The museum’s exhibits include restored apartments that depict the lives of immigrants who lived at 97 Orchard Street between 1869 and 1935. The museum’s public tours place these lives in the broader context of American history. The museum also has an extensive collection of historical archives and provides a variety of educational programs. The tenement is open for public tours daily. Neighborhood walking tours are also offered.
Delancey Street Subway Station nearby
Delancey Street – Essex Street (New York City Subway)
Stair at southeast corner of Essex and Delancey
|Address||Delancey Street & Essex Street
New York, NY 10002
|Locale||Lower East Side|
|Line|| IND Sixth Avenue Line
BMT Nassau Street Line
|Services|| F (all times)
J (all times)
M (all times except late nights)
Z (rush hours, peak direction)
|Opened||July 1, 1948|
|Passengers (2013)||7,759,914 (station complex) 6.7%|
|Rank||48 out of 421|
Delancey Street – Essex Street is a station complex shared by the BMT Nassau Street Line and the IND Sixth Avenue Lines of the New York City Subway, located at the intersection of Essex and Delancey Streets on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, just west of the Williamsburg Bridge.
It is served by the:
- F and J trains at all times
- M train at all times except late nights
- Z skip-stop train during rush hours in the peak direction
In addition to the two track levels—the BMT platforms are on the upper level and the IND platforms are on the lower—an intermediate mezzanine built for the IND platforms provides the passenger connection between the two lines. As the BMT and the IND were originally separate systems, the transfer passageway was not within fare control until July 1, 1948. The full-time entrance is on the north side of Delancey Street, on either side of Essex Street.