Monday, July 6, 2009

Jewish Knowledge (11)

Topic: Jewish Tid-Bits-Manhattan #4

Lower Manhattan (Area of Battery; and Whitehall District)

At the corner of Pearl and Broad Sts. is Fraunces Tavern, one of Manhattan's most cherished landmarks and a notable restoration of early Georgian Colonial work. Built in 1719 as a residence by Etienne de Lancey, a wealthy Huguenot, it later was the home of Phila Franks, who lived there after her marriage to de Lancey's grandson, Oliver, Phila was the daughter of Jacob Franks and the sister of David. Oliver's firm__DeLancey. Robinson and Company turned the structure into a store and warehouse in 1757, and in the 1760s it became a tavern. In 1783, Washington bade farewell to his officers in the tavern's Long Room, which was faithfully restored in 1907 by the Sons of the Revolution (not to be confused with the Sons of the American Revolution). A museum, exhibiting Revolutionary relics, is on the third floor, and on the fourth is a small historical library.

On South William St. (then Mill St.) is the site of the first synagogue in North America. In 1728, the Jewish community of New York purchased a lot for L100, one loaf sugar, and one pound of Bohea tea. On this lot a small synagogue was erected and dedicated on the seventh day of Passover, April 8, 1730. Its size 35 feet square and 21 feet high__gives an idea of the small number of Jews who dwelt in the tranquil little town of New York in the days when Newport was a more important harbor for sea-borne commerce. The thoroughfare was referred to as "Jews' Alley" or "Jews' Street" because of the neighborhood and this, the first, house of worship of Congregation Shearith Israel.

The Standard Oil Bldg., at 26 Broadway, has on the left side of the corridor a large bust of the first John D. Rockefeller by the Jewish sculptor, Jo Davidson.

Somewhere along the Battery is the spot where, on a day early in September 1654, the bark St. Charles dropped anchor, and 23 Jews the Jewish "pilgrims" of American Jewish history stepped ashore.

From the western shore of the Battery the visitor may view the world-famous Statue of Liberty (approached by ferry), whose base bears the poem. The New Colossus, by the Jewish poetess Emma Lazarus. One of the devices used to raise funds for the statue's pedestal was a Pedestal Art Loan Exhibition. Artists and writers were invited to contribute a work which would be auctioned off for the benefit of the fund. While a number of big names among them Walt Whitman, Bret Harte, and Mark Twain contributed original manuscripts, only two authors wrote something special for the occasion, and Emma Lazarus, 34 year old New York poetess, was one of these. Her sonnet, The New Colossus, was a tribute to liberty and to America as the haven of the oppressed. At the auction the poem brought $1,500.

Emma was born in New York City on July 22, 1849. Her father was a wealthy sugar merchant and art patron. Among her kinsmen were the Reverend Gershom Mendes Seixas, hazzan of Congregation Shearith Israel and Revolutionary patriot; Maud Nathan, pioneer suffragette; Annie Nathan Meyer, a founder of Barnard College; Robert Nathan, poet and novelist; and Supreme Court Justice Benjamin N. Cardozo.
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