Today was yet another kind of day: tour giving and running the Museum. The Director of Visitor’s Services was out at a meeting in the morning and the Education Director had to attend a funeral so we were a bit short-staffed. In addition to some scheduled school tours, our adult education classes were meeting in the morning and some staff was in attendance there. I took one of the high school tours around which was fine. The class was from Stuyvesant, one of the best high schools in the city and engaging their interest was easy. As well, their teacher had grown up across the street from the Synagogue and his mother and one of the founder’s were good friends and he told me he and his sister used to play in the place when it was a wreck. He brings every class of his to the space and still marvels at how beautiful the restoration is. The class had good questions about the restoration and the lives of the people who first founded the synagogue, thus the tour was lively and fun for all.
When I finished the tour, I went to the office in the basement of the Synagogue and started answering emails and following up with some colleagues from another institution about programming the spring. Since we were short staffed, I got called to give a brief tour to a couple from Long Island who were taking a walking tour of the Lower East Side. I love giving tours to New Yorkers. Many born and bred New Yorkers had no idea we existed and once they found us, marvel at the gem that we are, tucked away on a forgotten street in Chinatown. The couple ended up staying for almost a half hour, asking many questions about the history of the synagogue, the restoration, and the neighborhood. The walking tour guide is a big fan of ours and urged the couple to take our brochure and to attend one of our many concerts.
I went back to the office and thankfully, one of our docents arrived early. She told me that she met a woman at a Weight Watcher’s meeting who grew up in the neighborhood in the ‘50s and that her mother used to turn on the electricity for the Synagogue on the Sabbath. (In an Orthodox home or synagogue, it is forbidden to light a fire or turn on the lights/electricity in order to encourage full cessation from work, but one can have some one who is not Jewish turn on the lights.) Over the years I have collected many stories from the neighbors who have done this: a Chinese man who sells paper goods across the street, the mother of the owners of Di Palo’s Cheese store on Grand Street and now I had another one. I promised the docent I would call this woman and bring her to the Synagogue and get her story.
I had another meeting with Amy to finalize details for the spring and to put things on the calendar (one more step in getting things in motion for the spring). While we were doing this, we got several phone calls regarding an upcoming concert in two weeks. That made me happy, although I am not worried about getting a crowd for the concert as the group performed here a few years ago and has a following. (We love groups and performers who have “people”—it makes the marketing and outreach easier.) The group is called 12th Night Klezmer, an Israeli klezmer band whose members are classically trained musicians who have recently embraced Yiddish music. The leader of the band introduces each song and gives an informative history of the song and they are superb musicians. It’s a terrific show and they are calling the concert “Klezmer Jewels” so I am certain the repertoire will be dazzling—at least that’s what we are telling people.
My director came into the office and told me one of our board members knows some musicians that want to perform in the space and that we should have a meeting with her to figure out the timing of the event. We spoke with the board member and found out that she knows: 3 young women who are classically trained performers and want to perform in our beautiful space—but they have never been to the Museum, have only seen photos of it online. Seeing and experiencing the space are two very different things so we made a date for a meeting down here.
I worked the register for a bit to give one of the docents a break. I like working the front desk and meeting our visitors. We have many foreign ones—this time it was Spain, Germany and upstate New York. I chatted with them for a bit before sending them on to their tour-giver.
I had to leave early for a Doctor’s appointment (it seems I picked up a mild case of poison oak while in New Mexico) so I bid adieu to staff and docents.