Lower East Side Throwback: Making the Heritage Mural at 232 East Broadway

"Our Strength Is Our Heritage, Our Heritage is Our Life" at 232 East Broadway. Photo via Sara Krivisky.

“Our Strength Is Our Heritage, Our Heritage is Our Life” at 232 East Broadway. Photo via Sara Krivisky.

Lo-Down reader Sara Krivisky sent us these photos after noticing how faded the historic Jewish heritage mural at 232 East Broadway has become. The photos depict the planning and completion of the project in 1973. Sara was one of the teenagers involved in the project titled “Our Strength is Our Heritage, Our Heritage is Our Life.”

It was created by local youth teaming up with professional artists and was sponsored by the organization CITYArts. The mural depicts scenes from Jewish history, including the Nazi era, and some of the teens were children of Holocaust survivors.

It should be pointed out that this building is slated for redevelopment. It was sold, along with the adjoining Bialystoker Nursing home building (a city landmark), last year. Exact plans for the site have not been revealed.

In an email, Sara told us:

“I grew up in the L.E.S. My parents were Holocaust survivors, born in Poland and migrated to the Lower East Side, post-war. We moved a few times… always within the neighborhood…Clinton Street, Rutgers Street, East Broadway….always searching for what they felt was a ‘safer’ block.
All my friends were from the Lower East Side as well, some with similar backgrounds. On Saturday afternoons we would congregate in youth and teen groups at the Young Israel on East Broadway. Today it is a boarded up vacant lot across the street from the mural.

In 1972 our youth leaders, Lenny Rosenberg and Bobbie Kaplan, were approached by Sue Green who was project director of the CityArts Workshop. They were a community-based, nonprofit organization who had sponsored 15-20 public works, most of them on the lower East Side. ‘We decided that it would be appropriate to have an outdoor mural with a Jewish theme so we approached two young men who were active with Jewish kids in the area. We asked them to organize the project.’ (Sue Green quote from The American Examiner- Jewish Week, Dec 1973) Lenny Rosenberg and Bobbie gathered Jewish teens from the community, who met biweekly from Feb. – June 1972, and began the planning.

The group decided on 6 important themes (referenced in the first pic I sent) the immigration through Ellis Island, sweatshops, labor unions, the importance of the famous ‘Forward’ newspaper (left of mural). The center of the mural represents the Religious and traditional piece…a Rabbi covered in his prayer shawl, a women saying the Sabbath prayer lighting candles. Upper right was titled ‘In Fire’ ….the Holocaust, an athlete holding a torch representing the 1972 Summer Olympics Munich massacre, Russian Jewry…embarbed in wire, and the Lod airport massacre.

The right of the mural is filled with proud Jewish faces… young, old, secular, religious…Hopeful toward the future.

The faces on the wall are our faces….pictures we gathered of ourselves and our parents….pretty powerful. (my parents pic is the younger couple in the upper right…it’s one of the earliest pics I had found of them. I’m on the lower right, wearing a Jewish star necklace. The pics I sent shares some of the process.

My hopes have always been to restore the mural…gather  the original group, their children and the entire community.  I approached the Jewish Conservancy years ago but there was no funding for such an undertaking.
My oldest son Josh met with Tsipi Ben- Haim, head of the Cityarts program last year (a most amazing program……we were one of their first projects).
Unfortunately Josh left New York to go to grad school and could not head the efforts.

I left the Lower East Side after college…moved to 96th St and a nursing job at Mount Sinai. I moved on to Fort Myers, Florida and have lived there for the last 28 years.

The LES will always be home. I purchased an apt on East Broadway years ago and come back often. It’s become home to my three children. We still visit the mural.”

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All photos are courtesy of Sara Krivisky.