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Global Palate: Lower East Side Story

Estee Kafra

It promised to be the land of opportunity, where streets were paved with gold and anti-Semitism and pogroms a mere memory from the past.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

As early as the 1830s, Jews began setting their sights on America’s shores, arriving in waves at Ellis Island. Many ended up settling in the densely populated Lower East Side, adding their unique flavor to this bustling neighborhood. Last month, my family and I enjoyed several wonderful days touring the area and its historic landmarks, allowing the rich and colorful history of that time period to wash over us — along with the wafting smells of delicious, traditional foods. First stop, our tour of the Tenement Museum at 103 Orchard Street. The neat rows of brick buildings with brightly painted fire escapes belie the cramped, dim quarters into which Jews and other immigrants back then crammed their lives. Our tour guide, retired teacherLeahGabay, vividly describes the daily lives and struggles of poor immigrant families: narrow, dark hallways; coal-burning ovens for cooking; lack of plumbing; long, draining workdays — for children too! — and overcrowded conditions.

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