Hasia Diner is the Paul S. and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History at New York University. In Lower East Side Memories: A Jewish Place In America, she recounts the history of Manhattan's Lower East Side in terms of its Jewish community, largely populated by immigrants from Eastern Europe. During the years 1880-1930 it was never ethnically (or even religiously) homogenous. It was a place of tenements, poverty, sweatshops, packs of roaming children, a dark warren of pushcart-lined streets and social work pioneering. Professor Diner surveys its popular culture, and the impact of the Lower East Side as an icon symbol upon such diverse venues as children's stories, novels, movies, museum exhibits, television shows, summer-camp reenactments, walking tours, consumer catalogues -- even photos hung on deli walls. After World War II the Lower East Side was enshrined as the portal through which Jews passed from European oppression into the promise of America. After 1960, the Lower East Side gave secularized and suburban Jews a culturally transmitted story of their origins and heritage. Lower East Side Memories is an exceptional, informative, highly recommended history of a community, a heritage, and a cultural identity arising from one of the most distinctive and unique neighborhoods in American twentieth century history.
A truly wonderful book for Jewish and non-Jewish, New Yorker and non-New Yorker alike. This is not a tourist guide to the LES, so if you're looking for a travel book this isn't it.
What it is goes deep into what it is to be Jewish in America, whether you or your family ever lived in NY. The book explains how the LES came to represent Jewishness in America, how people looked at it as a common factor in their lives. Even though more Jews settled in Brooklyn and Harlem than on the LES, that one area has come to represent everything Jewish in America.
Reading this book will give you an idea of what people relocating from Russia, Eastern Europe, Poland, etc, faced upon arrival in this country. Beyond that though it shows why people still fell drawn to the LES generations later.
A truly great book that needs to be read by everyone since we are all newcomers to America.