History at Home in the Tenement Museum


Lower East Side Tenement Museum – NYC

From Nursing Clio from R. E. Fulton:

Several times a day, several days a week, I stand with a group of strangers in the parlor of a Lithuanian immigrant family who arrived in New York’s Lower East Side in 1901. I explain that when the Rogarshevsky family observed the Sabbath each week, their two teenage daughters were away at their jobs in factories: a source of pain to their devout Jewish parents. Abraham and Fannie Rogarshevsky’s religious devotion was both a matter of synagogue record and a theme of oral history interviews with their son, conducted by the Lower East Side Tenement Museum — where I get to tell their story day after day as a museum educator.

“How do you think their daughters felt about breaking the Sabbath?” I ask museum visitors. Nobody answers. An uneasy silence hangs in the air, and with good reason; everyone knows you can’t read a stranger’s mind across a full century.

So I break it down. The Tenement Museum, I tell them, has been researching family history since 1988, drawing on New York City’s rich archival resources, on census records and city directories and public newspapers, on oral histories and cultural histories and comparative religious histories. In 29 years of rigorous historical study, the museum has made an important discovery: that teenagers and parents don’t always share the same priorities.

Read the rest of the article at Nursing Clio

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