The focus of our New York trip today was on Jewish heritage. We traveled downtown where we boarded the Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty ferries. We learned of the important history connected to those two areas of New York and importance to the Jewish people in the United States. The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France and a representation of high end architecture and engineering at the time. Ellis Island was the gateway of millions of immigrants into the United States from the late 1800s through the mid-1950s. So many Jewish immigrants entered New York through Ellis Island at the lower parts of Manhattan that those neighborhoods were often considered some of the busiest and most crowded in the world of their time, compared to cities like Mumbai today.
From Ellis Island, we visited the Museum of Jewish Heritage located in Battery Park. Our tour guide was lovely and took time to explain important facts about heritage, culture and ancestry to our students. We looked at family trees and how family was the focal point of Jewish life then as it is now. Each student also shared about their own heritage and recalled the immigration and family units they have studied at Kadima.
Jewish learning continued as we moved further uptown. We soon found ourselves in the middle of Chinatown, in a neighborhood that was once completely inhabited by orthodox Jews. There we visited the Eldridge Street synagogue and museum. We learned how the building was refurbished, and how the neighborhood changed over time. The predominantly Jewish neighborhood was tightly populated with many tenement apartments. The neighborhood was called the "Jewish" lower Eastside. Students learned that as Jewish immigrants became more successful, they purchased homes and move to more up-and-coming neighborhoods further uptown. The neighborhood then became open to new immigrants once again. The Eldridge Street docents took us on a walking historical tour of the local community. We were able to see the original buildings that houses banks, newspapers and other high end buildings - several were 10-12 stories high- the tallest sky scrapers at the time.
After dinner, the group had additional free time to spend in Midtown. Collectively, the students decided to visit the Empire State building! At one point this skyscraper was the tallest in the world and was built at record speed. Tomorrow, students continue learning about the importance of their heritage and connect it back to their Kadima curriculum.