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Museum at Eldridge Street Opens Exhibit of Early 20th Century Postcards From the Lower East Side

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Image courtesy of: Blavatnik Archive Foundation.
Image courtesy of: Blavatnik Archive Foundation.

A fascinating exhibition opens tomorrow evening at the Museum at Eldridge Street. Through a collaboration with the Blavatnik Archive, the museum will be showcasing a collection of postcards depicting life on the Lower East Side during the early part of the 20th Century.

“The Jewish Ghetto in Postcards: From Eastern Europe to the Lower East Side,” will be on display at the museum through March 8.

In a statement, Blavatnik Archive founder Len Blavatnik said his organization is, “proud to exhibit for the first time at the Museum at Eldridge Street a selection of its archival postcards highlighting the American Jewish immigrant experience of the early 1900s. Postcards, the visual social media of the early 20th Century, provide a portal to the bustling life of an immigrant community in NYC, as experienced 100 years ago.”

Here’s more about the exhibition from the museum’s press materials:

The Jewish Ghetto in Postcards features fifty postcard images, interpretive texts, oral histories, and a digital component that allows visitors to enlarge and examine the postcards and historic materials. The bulk of the exhibition features images of New York’s Lower East Side, long an immigrant gateway. Images of bustling streets with pushcarts and horse- drawn carriages, a pickle vendor, and a surprisingly beautiful view of tenements with laundry suspended from one tenement to the next recall a by-gone era. The Lower East Side is described on both the front and back of postcards as “The Ghetto” or “Judea.” During the first decades of the 20th Century, the term “the Ghetto” was understood as the place where the Jews lived in New York City. The postcards were collected in albums, sent as a memento from travels, or –as indicated by a message scrawled on one of the featured images – mailed by Progressive-era teachers and workers who wanted to show the atmosphere of the neighborhood where they worked. The postcards of Eastern Europe depict men with long beards, wooden homes along unpaved streets, and other stereotypical scenes of the shtetl, with captions printed on the cards describing them as “Jewish Types” and the “Jewish Quarter.” Some of these images are snapshots taken by passing soldiers during World War I who were struck by the exotic-looking community they encountered.
 Image courtesy of: Blavatnik Archive Foundation.
Image courtesy of: Blavatnik Archive Foundation.

 

postcard 2
Image courtesy of: Blavatnik Archive Foundation.

Accompanying the exhibition will be a series of programs, including walking tours, lectures and music. More information about these programs can be found here.

The Museum at Eldridge Street is located in a beautifully restored 1887 synagogue, the first constructed by Eastern European Jews in this country. The museum is open Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Friday from a0 a.m.-3 p.m. Admission is $14 adults; $10 students and seniors, $8 children 5-17; free for children under 5 years of age. Mondays are “Pay What You Wish.”

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