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Street Scene (Hester Street)

By 1905 Hester Street on Manhattan's Lower East Side was a center for the thousands of Jewish immigrants who had begun arriving in New York City in the 1870s. Their strong cultural presence (along with that of other immigrant populations) transformed the city. Many native New Yorkers feared the impact of these newcomers, and others were struck by their exotic picturesqueness. In 1892 the critic Mariana Van Rensselaer wrote, "I have seen Hester Street . . . when it swarmed so thickly with Jews of a dozen lands . . . that there seemed no room for another . . . and Hester Street was amazingly like those foreign ghettos which traveling New-Yorkers take such pains to visit." George Benjamin Luks also saw the picturesque potential of Hester Street, but instead of portraying the crowd as a homogeneous mass, he focused on individuals of different ages and sexes interacting and contributing to the vitality of a changing New York.


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