Tenement Museum at Manny Cantor Center

For the first time ever, one of our signature tours visited a tenement apartment outside of the museum! This past year, our curators recreated the 1911 Rogarshevsky family home inside the Manny Cantor Center, a vital Lower East Side institution.

Learn more about our special partnership and explore the connections between this historic community center and our 1910s tenement family, the Rogarshevskys.

Life beyond the tenements

Tenement residents have always lived a lot of their lives outside their apartments, and on this special tour, we walked the same streets that the Rogarshevskys did, saw where they could go when they weren’t in their apartment, and explored how the neighborhood served as a community and home for them over the decades.

1898 Orchard St - Tenement Museum at Manny Cantor Center

In the 1890s, the Lower East Side was rapidly becoming the most crowded, densely populated neighborhood in the country. The neighborhood also received a large arrival of Eastern European Jewish immigrants, making it the biggest Jewish area in the world. While the tenements offered a landing place for newly arrived immigrants, city reformers and tenement residents alike struggled to find ways to improve their quality of life in these often crowded, airless, and dark apartments.

While many wealthier city residents focused their attention on solving the health, sanitation, and structural issues in tenements, a group of German Jewish New Yorkers wanted to solve the cultural and social issues they saw among the new immigrants from Eastern Europe.

Old black and white photo of young boys playing table tennis in a game room at the Education Alliance

They aimed to provide spaces, classes, and programs – such as cooking and language classes, sports and theater plays – to introduce new immigrants to the United States and the Jewish American culture they had championed for decades. Out of these goals emerged the Educational Alliance and its flagship building at 197 East Broadway.

On this tour, we saw how this center would have been enjoyed by families like the Rogarshevskys and how the center changed in response to debates about what it meant to be American.

A vital resource for the community

The Educational Alliance has served Lower East Siders since 1889. As an organization that evolved as the neighbors did, the history of the Lower East Side and the history of the Educational Alliance are deeply intertwined.

The Educational Alliance’s Manny Cantor Center offered a creative outlet via their art school, garden, classrooms, and theater. It was and continues to serve as a place where local residents of all ages would go to watch a play, start English classes, and attend religious services.

Old black and white photo of the flagship building of the Education Alliance at East Broadway

In the 1940s, as the population of the Lower East Side changed, so did Educational Alliance. The community center introduced social service programs overseen by trained professionals, in response to the growing population of Puerto Rican, African American, and later, Chinese Lower East Siders.

In addition to their original building, which now houses the Manny Cantor Center, Educational Alliance operates three other freestanding community centers and a network of community schools.

The Rogarshevsky family in front of 97 Orchard Street in the early 1900s
Featured Tour

Day in the Life: 1911

On this tour, we shared the story of the Rogarshevskys, an Eastern European Jewish family who lived in the Lower East Side when it was a crowded, bustling, diverse center of Jewish life in New York. You’d walk the same streets as the Rogarshevsky family did in 1911 before visiting the exhibit of their recreated tenement apartment, and explore the neighborhood through their eyes as they balanced tradition, work, and fun on the Lower East Side.

Get a special look at the recreated Rogarshevsky apartment exhibit!

Manny Cantor Center Entrance

Today, the Manny Cantor Center continues to be a community center for all in the Lower East Side.

Offering unique programs and critical services for people of all ages, the Manny Cantor Center is a vibrant hub of diversity and inclusivity, of health and education. The Manny Cantor Center strives to provide a space for growth, achievement, enjoyment and connection for all Lower East Siders today.