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.

L.E.S. Heritage Film Series to Present Unpublished Rebecca Lepkoff Photos

The Seward Park Branch Library has announced the first program of its 2013/2014 Lower East Side Heritage Film Series, Rebecca Lepkoff: In photographs and conversation, on Tuesday, October 15th. 

Clayton Patterson & Friends Celebrate Release of LES Jewish History Project

Clayton Patterson with co-editors and contributors at the launch of “Jews: A People’s History of the Lower East Side.”

Last week, a group of people with a passion for the Lower East Side came to one of the neighborhood’s most magnificent spaces, the Angel Orensanz Center, for a celebration.  The occasion was the official unveiling of Clayton Patterson’s sweeping three-volume project chronicling Jewish life on the LES.

“Jews: A People’s History of the Lower East Side,” was edited by Patterson, the neighborhood documentarian, and sociologist Mareleyn Schneider.  It consists of more than 1500 pages and 150 chapters, covering such varied topics as Jewish boxing, Allen Ginsberg, the destruction of LES synagogues and the 2nd Avenue deli. The books were published with the help of a Kickstarter campaign.

Election Night Back When: The Forward Building’s Role

The Forward Building. Alan Hochman, Collection of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum.

Editor’s note: Just as New Yorkers try to shake off the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy, the city shifts its attention to today’s presidential election.  While most of us will be glued to the television or to our handheld digital device tonight, waiting to see whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney will be our next president, it’s worth recalling the way Election Day used to play out on the Lower East Side.  Writer and filmmaker Laurie Gwen Shapiro takes us back to the year 1912:

At the start of October, my lifelong political junkie father and I were anxiously weighing Obama’s chances en route to Café Petisco on East Broadway. I was keeping pace alongside his moving electric scooter when Dad curiously slowed to a halt in front of The Forward Building, former headquarters of the once powerful Yiddish newspaper, and more recently the site of luxurious condos owned by the likes of Tatum O’Neal.

“I bet you didn’t know how the Lower East Side got our election results before TV? Before the internet? On the Forwartz building. They projected the results on the side of the building. On a giant white screen. You can’t believe what a big deal it was.”

I am a New York City history junkie, and pressed Dad for details, right in the middle of the street.

“Ah, I don’t know anything. Let’s eat lunch, I’m not a historian.”

Another Look: Garden Cafeteria Revisited

April 2005, Garden Cafeteria sign briefly revealed.

Sometimes it’s surprising what can be unearthed in an old shoe box or in the deep recesses of your computer hard drive. A reader of The Lo-Down sent along this photo she snapped in 2005 on the corner of East Broadway and Rutgers streets, at the very moment a treasured Lower East Side relic was briefly rediscovered before being removed for good.

You probably recognize the facade; today the Wing Shoon Chinese restaurant is located here. But from 1941-1983, the ground floor of 165 East Broadway was the legendary Garden Cafeteria. It was a center of Jewish intellectual life on the Lower East Side — and a gathering place for poets and writers such as Elie Wiesel and Isaac Bashevis Singer.

Tenement Talks – Lower East Side Stories

Image_view"Tenement Talks", hosted by H.R. Britton this evening, includes four professional storytellers
who will recount their experiences as urban children or tell us how they raised
their own kids in the big city. Performers include Robin Bady, Jane LeCroy, DJ Hazard, and Tracy Rowland. Audience members are invited to
share their own three-minute tales." The talk starts at 6:30p at the Tenement Museum (108 Orchard). FREE