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Letters from Scholars

The 10-story Bialystoker tower stands out architecturally as an exemplar of the embrace of the modern and Art Deco styles by New York’s Jews (think of the office skyscrapers of Ely Jacques Kahn and Irwin Chanin) but also as an important and successful social experiment. The Bialystoker is the physical manifestation of the shift in the charitable impulses of the late 19th-century landsmanshaft groups to more modern community-wide social services. For the first time, place-based immigrant groups (led by the many Bialystoker organizations) pooled their resources to provide a necessary charitable service available to all needy Jews. This style of care, already known in uptown Jewish hospitals such as Sinai and Montefiore, was new on the Lower East Side. And while those earlier institutions had been founded by New York’s German-speaking Jewish population, the success of the Bialystoker Home was due entirely to “Polish” Jews.

Samuel D. Gruber, Cultural Heritage Consultant, Jewish art, architecture and historic sites.

I heard about the situation of the Bialystoker Home in New York , a beautiful and meaningful example of Art Deco style. I think that this building represents, especially with its façade, the main elements of Judaism with symbols and recognizable Hebrew-style lettering. I think that it is very important to prevent the destruction of this monument, and in this way to save the memory of our international heritage. Personally I am ready to help you with my experience in architecture, and support the initiative. We say that History is important, so we have to preserve the past, and we have try to save also the Bialystok building.

Yoram Ortona, Italian Jewish Architect, Milan, Italy, Vice President of the Foundation for Jewish Cultural Heritage in Italy (FBCEI), a non-profit organization formed by the Union of Italian Jewish Communities (UCEI) in 1986. It aims to promote the recovery, conservation, restoration and enhancement of the historical and artistic heritage, including every Italian Jewish asset of cultural interest, archival, architectural, archaeological, religious, musical and bibliographic, and to spread knowledge in Italy and abroad.

Most Jewish immigrants came to the United States to stay. Very rarely did they return ‘home.’ New York City became their home in America and the Bialystoker Center and Home reflects that commitment. Built before Social Security, it represents a grassroots effort to care for the vulnerable in the city. Thus the building exemplifies Jewish ethnic solidarity, immigrant ingenuity, social welfare ethics, and part of what made New York City a pioneer in progressive social change in the 20th century.

Deborah Dash Moore, Director of the Frankel Center for Judaic Studies and Frederick G.L. Huetwell Professor of History, University of Michigan.

As well documented in work such as Rebecca Kobrin’s book on the Bialystok diaspora, this building is one of our major testaments to the enterprise, creativity and devotion of the early twentieth-century immigrants who did so much to make this city great. No one built the building for these hard-working people from Bialystok; they did it themselves. It is eloquent testimony to the ties they retained to the Jewish community of their home city, brutally exterminated in World War II, and thus a monument to memory in itself.

Jonathan Boyarin, Kaplan Distinguished Professor of Modern JewishThought, Department of Religious Studies, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

We cannot let this building, which tells the tale of an important chapter of Jewish history, and New York history, be removed from our memory and our understanding of the Jewish immigrant encounter with America.

Rebecca Kobrin, Russell Knapp Assistant Professor of American Jewish History, Columbia University

The Bialystoker Center is one of the finest and most unusual buildings in the area and an important structure city wide.

Andrew Scott Dolkart, Director of the Historic Preservation Program, Columbia University

The distinctive building survives as one of the few structures that reflect the history and culture of caring for generations of Jewish immigrants and their descendant in the community.

Suzanne Wasserman, Ph.D. Director, Gotham Center for New York City History/CUNY Graduate Center

The Bialystoker Home is thus a fitting monument to immigrant striving and collective success. The destruction of the Bialystoker Home would mean the partial erasure of the Lower at Side’s vibrant immigrant history.

Daniel Soyer, Professor of History, Fordham University

I should like to strongly recommend consideration for landmark designation the building at 225 East Broadway, Manhattan. Known since its construction in 1926-31 as the Lower East Side’s unofficial “Jewish Landmark,” the 10-story structure, now one of only two north of East Broadway that remain from the early days of the neighborhood, has much to recommend its designation.

Gerard R. Wolfe, Professor emeritus, Department of American Studies, New York University