BEHIND THE BRICK: The lives at 103 Orchard Street

“HEY Rosetta, you want to come up and play?” Bella Epstein yells out the window from her pastel pink bedroom.

The window doesn’t look onto a street or a park, rather the air shaft in a tenement building on the Lower East Side.

But it’s how she and the other kids in this quarter of New York would let each other know they were home and free to play.

It’s circa 1955 and the eight year old is often listening to Paul Anka’s Diana on the record player whenever it is free.

“It was played more in my house than I think anywhere else in the world,” she says in a recording played during a tour of her old quarters at 103 Orchard Street.

Bella is Jewish. Her parents had met after their time in Holocaust camps and moved to the United States as refugees.

Kalmen was 39 and Rivka was 26.

Polish Rivka was told to say that she was German because the United States was still accepting that nationality but had put a stop to immigrants from Eastern Europe, her homeland before World War II stripped her of her previous identity.

But Bella doesn’t yet know or understand that. She’s never asked about the tattoos on their arms. And she doesn’t understand the importance, and bravery, of fixing a Jewish mezuzah to their front entrance.

She grew up in a time when the Lower East Side was diversifying and people from many different cultures were interacting and learning about each other. To a point.

Read the article by Rae Wilson in The Queensland Times.