, 15 tweets, 8 min read Read on Twitter
This is a thread about Jewish eateries on the #LowerEastSide of Manhattan: #KatzsDelicatessen, #YonahSchimmelKnishery, and #RussandDaughtersAppetizers.

So, of course, it is also a thread about #immigration.
@KatzsDeli, 205 E. Houston St. Already famed for pastrami, Katz's was immortalized in #WhenHarryMetSally, and yesterday held a fake orgasm contest. Opened by others in 1888; Willy Katz became part owner in 1903, cousin Benny Katz joined 1910, and it's been Katz's ever since. #LES
@YonahSchimmelNY, 137 E. Houston St. Yonah Schimmel, a Romanian rabbi, operated a pushcart at Coney Island starting in 1895, and opened his shop in its present location in 1910. The best potato knish anywhere. Don't @ me. #LES
Russ & Daughters, @LoxPopuli, 179 E. Houston St. Lox, whitefish, sable, sturgeon, all to die for. Founded in 1914 by Joel Russ, an immigrant from the Polish shtetl of Strzyzow. The 1st U.S. business to have "& Daughters" in its name, for Hattie, Ida, & Anne Russ. #LES
Today, these businesses are the rare survivors of a different time, when the Lower East side was overwhelmingly Jewish.

In 1880, NYC was home to 80,000 Jews. By 1920, the number was 1.5 million, most crowded into tenements on Essex and Orchard, Rivington and Delancey. #LES
Why did they come? In 1881, Czar Alexander II was assassinated; and, in one of history's most familiar tropes, the Jews were blamed. Blood libel and pogroms weren't new to the poor Jews of the Russian shtetls, but this new level of violence and mayhem was unprecedented.
2 million Russian Jews fled to the US, with more than half settling in NYC.

We were tired and poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Wretched refuse. We came. Many were allowed in. Many others were turned away, for any number of reasons, or, often, for no reason at all.
In some years, more Jewish immigrants fleeing violence were allowed in; in other years, fewer were granted entry. Sometimes - including at our most desperate moments - none were granted asylum.

And make no mistake: even when we were permitted to enter, we were rarely welcomed.
So what. We are a stiff-necked people, and here we remain. Dispersed, diaspora, assimilated and diluted, nonetheless, we persist.

Sometimes things here are better for us, sometimes not as good. Sometimes we feel safer than others. Never entirely safe, though. Because we are not.
We are not entirely safe. Not even here, and certainly not now.

Almost directly across the street from Katz's Deli stands this simple 3-story building. The graffiti on its side is easier to notice than the Jewish star above the uppermost window. This was a #LES #synagogue.
It was built in 1926 for Congregation Masas Benjamin, comprised of #immigrants from the village of Podhajce in Galicia, in SE Poland. The rusting archway over the entry reads, in #Yiddish, Contributed by the Podhajce Ladies' Auxiliary.

The building is no longer a synagogue.
Time, and demographics, have changed. Many Jews have moved away, and become less observant. The old shul now contains private residences. Still, the building, and the Jewish star, remain in the #LES in testament.

The Jews who stayed in Podhajce did not fare as well.
Podhajce, Poland was a community of 3,000 Jews. In Autumn 1942, the Nazis deported them to the death camp at Belzec for extermination. Now, the cornerstone of the small former synagogue on E. Houston Street reminds me of a grave marker, its letters eroding like fading memories.
Allowing #immigration by people in need is who we're supposed to be. It's certainly who we are when we are touched by the better angels of our nature. Immigrants are a fundamental part of our life's blood. Their cultures diversify, strengthen, fuel our society.
Your pastrami sandwich, your Sunday bagel, your knish didn't come from nowhere. The foods we love came from a lot of different places.

So did we.

Es gezunteheit.
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