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From the American Scene: Culture on Rutgers Square

- Abstract

What St. Stephen’s Plate was to Vienna, Rutgers Square was to New York’s Lower East Side at the turn of the century. A one-block triangle situated at the junction of East Broadway, Canal, and Division Streets, it formed a kind of dividing line among the Jewish newcomers, after they had crowded out the earlier Irish and German immigrants. South of East Broadway, towards the East River, from Catherine Street on the west to Jackson Street on the east, in hundred-year-old dilapidated tenements, lived the immigrants from western Russia, the Pale—mostly Lithuanian Jews, “Litvaks.” North of East Broadway, as far as Houston Street, from the Bowery on the west to Mangin Street on the east, in rectangular, narrow, cobblestoned streets, in even more dilapidated tenements, there settled the immigrants from Poland, Galicia—the “Galitzianer”—Bessarabia, Bukovina, and a scattering of Sephardic Jews from Turkey and Greece.

During the day Rutgers Square was a quiet business district, but with the coming of darkness it erupted “Kultur” like an active volcano: religion and atheism, free love and vegetarianism, politics and ideologies. But in peace. The presence of our neighbor, Thomas Mulvany, and the “billy” in his belt, gave kapuler untzuherenes (tactful hints) that culture would not be disturbed.

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