Jewish Heritage Mural of the Lower East Side
In 1972, the New York City Mayor John Lindsey’s administration’s administration funded CityArts, a longtime public art organization that paired professional artists and teenage students to create mosais and murals around New York City. CityArts partnered with Young Israel, a multi-cultural youth group of the Lower East Side, at the Educational Alliance, to create a Jewish mural. The students researched and decided upon six themes of Jewish history over the course of the century were to be pained.
Inscribed with the words “Our Strength Is Our Heritage, Our Heritage Is Our Life” this mural was painted on an office building at 232 East Broadway east of Clinton Street. The left side depicted Lower East Side history: Ellis Island immigration, the dawn of the labor movement and the sweatshops, the early importance of The Forward newspaper depicting the masthead at its then weekly price of twenty cents. . The middle section was devoted to religion: a rebbe praying, a woman lighting Shabbat candles, a menorah. There was also modern world history: A fire representing the Holocaust, a flag and map of the modern state of Israel, the massacre of Jewish Olympians at the 1972 Summer Olympics at Munich. The far right side of the mural depicted the faces of the teens themselves and their families.
Investor Rob Kaliner’s Ascend Group had purchased three adjacent parcels of land on East Broadway. The middle parcel is the Bialystoker Nursing Home building, an official New York City landmark. Constructed in 1929 by immigrants from Bialystok, the wedding-cake-like art deco building—adorned with medallions depicting the 12 tribes of Israel—is a former nursing home and community center that was shuttered in 2011;but thanks to the efforts of local activists, it was granted landmark status in 2013 which. protects it from destruction. But the parking garage on one side and the office building on the other are slated for demolition, to be replaced by two vast residential buildings that will sandwich the Bialystocker nursing home. On November 7, 2016 Rob Kaliner ordered the peeling mural to be painted over for alleged safety reasons. Although it might have been desirable by many to have been preserved, nobody had been forthcoming with money to preserve the mural or to mobilize to grant landmark status.