I leaned over the glass case, turned off the flash, snapped this just for readers who visit here. This amazing machine was one of two items that spoke to me at "The Jewish Daily Forward: Embracing an Immigrant Community," currently at the Museum of the City of New York.
The other artifact was harder to get a good photo because it was surrounded by a glass vitrine. Why? A large metal advertisement for Singer Sewing Machine. Would someone be able to walk off with it? There was a feel of impersonality to the entire enterprise--especially for those of us who view 19th and early 20th Jewish life as warm and untidy.
How our immigrant families Americanized themselves from tenement life to the suburbs of the 1950s was the subject of a 1990 exhibition at the Jewish Museum. "Getting Comfortable in New York: The American Jewish Home, 1880-1950." Because the catalog from it has become wildy expensive, here's a link in libraries to search. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett's fine article, "Kitchen Judaism," begins:
The beauty of white stewed fish on the Passover table carried a special message at thhe World's Columbian Exhibition...1893. There, at the Jewish Women's Congress, Mary M. Chohen spoke to interested but uninformed Christians in her audience about the kitchen's role in creating a 'bond of sanctity' between Jewish religion and family life.
But I digress. We went to the Museum to see a 1988 film, “The Forward: From Immigrants to Americans,” directed by Marlene Booth. This history of The Jewish Daily Forward, the Yiddish newspaper, was followed comments and answers to questions by Chana Pollack, an archivist at the newspaper. Ron, who rarely remarks on clothes wanted a tee-shirt like hers with Yiddish written in Yiddish, of course.
The Forward has amazed readers and scholars with it survival. Now an English-language weekly, today's publication continues as a link to a rich past, continues a Yiddish edition. For Ron's parents and friends, it was the life-line to their Eastern European roots. Ron, after public school classes, would travel on the subway to Yiddish school. He is our family's link to that tradition though he claims his reading ability is not what it used to be.
No surprise that the entire movie audience was over 55, maybe 60. Questions were thoughtful and, surprising for a New York Jewish audience, without argument. Chana shared her extensive knowlege of The Forverts, what my late mother-in-law called it. Wonderful there is a younger generation of scholars and enthusiasts to continue this link to our socialist cultural past. We have, indeed, changed.
[Posted while a little red hen and spouse visit family in Portland, Oregon]