About usPartner with usSign up to our Newsletter

Italian Labor Center

Situated above the Beauty Bar is an inscription commemorating the building’s history as the former Italian Labor Center. On either side of the inscription are depictions of two families, one in torment and another at peace, that are thought to have been carved by Italian artist Onorio Ruotolo, who frequently used his art as social criticism. Built in 1919, the building served as headquarters for the Local 48 of the ILGWU (Italian Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union), or Italian Cloakmakers’ Union. The organization followed largely Socialist ideals—in part a response to Benito Mussolini’s steady rise to power in Italy and his dissemination of fascism—and was renowned for organizing strikes and protests in an effort to improve labor conditions.

Sign up to Sidestreet Updates

More Historic Site nearby

Lost Gem
East End Temple 1 Synagogues Historic Site undefined

East End Temple

It would be easy to walk right past the East End Temple. From the street, it does not look how one might expect an active synagogue to appear. It is part of a row house designed by the renowned Beaux-Arts architect Richard Morris Hunt for Sidney Webster, a governor of New York, United States senator, and Ulysses S. Grant’s Secretary of State. Its exterior is impeccably well-maintained, and has been designated a New York Historic Landmark. It is the splendid interior, however, on which the congregation has truly left its stamp. East End Temple was founded as Congregation El Emet (which means “God of Truth” in Hebrew), a name they still use, in 1948. Its founders were World War II veterans living nearby in Stuyvesant Town. For the first part of its existence, the congregation met in a building at 23rd Street and Second Avenue. In 2004, the congregation moved into its current building following a complete architectural overhaul that involved refurbishing and restoring the Helen Spring Library. Original elements from the house’s use as a private residence are plainly visible, and the construction of a brand-new sanctuary received the 2005 American Institute of Architects Honor Award in the category of outstanding interiors. Incidentally, Richard Morris Hunt was a founding member of that very organization. Lauren Weinberger, a longtime congregant of East End Temple, told me that the congregation had originally planned to build and move into their new sanctuary earlier than 2004. One night in 2001, they had a marathon meeting in which they finalized plans for the new space and hammered out every last detail. That night was September 10. Needless to say, contractors, city permits, and most importantly, emotional stamina and confidence were difficult to come by directly following 9/11. In a sense, the now-completed sanctuary serves as a monument to the refusal of New Yorkers to put their communal and spiritual lives on indefinite hiatus. The sanctuary, flooded with light from a hidden skylight, appears larger than its actual physical size. Nearly every element of its design is meant to evoke Israel and the Tabernacle. The wall behind the bimah - the raised platform at the front of the sanctuary - is made of Jerusalem stone, with eighteen bronze prayer strips that resemble the paper prayer strips placed by worshipers in the Western Wall. The lectern is made of wood similar to the acacia (now endangered) used in the Biblical construction of the Tabernacle, with hand-holds built into the front to represent "portable nature. " Features such as the L-shaped pew arrangement and low bimah make for a community-oriented synagogue experience. The design of the sanctuary was intended to be “non-hierarchical, ” Lauren explained. Even the Ner Tamid - the lantern holding the ceremonial eternal light of God - is hung from a long beam extending from the center of the sanctuary, making it seem more accessible. For me, however, the most striking feature of the sanctuary’s design is the ark doorway made from cast bronze. After hearing of a Buddhist tradition in which prayers are burnt in the crucible where a Temple bell is cast, the congregation decided to adapt the custom for their own Jewish practice. When casting the ark doors, congregants’ prayers were thrown into the crucible and are now part of the doors’ very substance. As for the design of the bronze itself, the doors are meant to feel “tactile, ” with linen-like textures and a tree motif representing the Torah, often referred to as the “Tree of Life” in Jewish practice. The sanctuary reflects the priorities of the congregation it houses. “We pride ourselves on being inclusive and welcoming as a community, ” Lauren said proudly. East End Temple is home to a thriving religious school, members of New York’s LGBT community, and to this day, some of the original founders of Congregation El Emet. Some subsets of the congregation even have their own nicknames, like BEET: The Boomers of East End Temple (“a healthy empty-nesters community, ” as Lauren describes it). Special events such as summer services in Stuyvesant Square and monthly Simchat Shabbat services, which feature music, comedy, and guest speakers draw healthy numbers of participants. The congregation is active in community organizations like Metro IAF-NY, and enjoys a genial relationship with nearby St. George’s Episcopal Church and Friends Seminary. “The best thing you can do is be a place people want to be at, ” Lauren said of her synagogue. “It’s been a wonderful space. ”

More Non Profit Organizations nearby

Lost Gem
3rd Street Music School 1 Non Profit Organizations Music Schools Founded Before 1930 undefined

3rd Street Music School

“Third Street is a power house — a place where people can get affordable music lessons and have an opportunity to grow not just as a student but as an individual, ” Executive Director Valerie Lewis said. Over a century after its founding, the Third Street Music Settlement has progressed from teaching piano and violin to offering classes in twenty-five instruments, as well as dance and composition in “every genre from hip-hop to oboe and rock bands to orchestras. ”Third Street was founded by Emily Wagner based on the idea that “music plays a critical role not only in the development of a child but in the advancement of society. ” What began as a music school “expanded beautifully into a full settlement house. ” At one point, Third Street was giving individual lessons and orchestra experiences while also providing temporary housing and even advanced medical procedures. Like many of the settlement houses at the time, it was responding to the needs of the expanding immigrant population of the Lower East Side at the turn of the twentieth century. Third Street’s focus eventually shifted away from social services and back to music, keeping the word “settlement” in the name as an affirmation of music’s enormous social and cultural power. While classes at Third Street may no longer cost twenty-five cents as they did in the time of Emily Wagner, there is still a place for everyone. Valerie said that Third Street “never turns away a student because of their inability to pay. At the core of what we do is ensuring access. ” What all people at Third Street share is “the elation that comes from playing the simplest notes and the most complicated chords together. ”