Changes in legislation after World War II opened migration from different parts of the world, enriching the American melting pot. As these national policies shifted, the immigrant communities of the Lower East Side evolved.
Jewish refugees like the Epsteins came to the Lower East Side in the late 1940s, attracted to the Jewish infrastructure, synagogues and shops. The Epstein family story brings to life the experience of refugees and asylum-seekers, and the role the Holocaust played in changing American immigration policy.
Ramonita Saez and her sons Andy and Jose Velez were part of a migration that brought close to half a million Puerto Ricans to New York City between 1940 and 1960. The Saez/Velez family story takes us through some of the country’s most challenging times, touching on the ways the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War affected the neighborhood.
The Hart-Celler Act of 1965 opened America’s doors to newcomers from Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The Wongs were among the significant numbers of Asians entering the United States. Their story explores the erosion of national origins legislation, the rise of the largest Chinatown in the U.S., and the growth of New York City’s second largest immigrant community.
Learn more about the Epstein, Velez and Wong families by visiting the Stories of 103 Orchard Street.