Harold Arlen Exhibition  /  The Jewish East Side

Along the streets of Jefferson, Pratt, Spring and William and the surrounding highways bounded by Michigan and Fillmore, Clinton and Broadway, dense networks of Jewish family and friends formed the The Jewish East Side” of popular memory.

Eastern European Jews dominated this newer Jewish community expansion that built on a community of mainly Central European immigrant Jews and their descendants, already integrated into Buffalo civic life. Most Eastern-European Jewish immigrants began their lives on the East Side where rents were cheaper and many homes allowed for combined work and living spaces.

For many Buffalo Jews, the East Side felt like a visible Jewish neighborhood. Signs in Hebrew indicated where families could buy kosher meat. Posters and banners in Yiddish and Hebrew called attention to community events. Jewish organizations, homes and commercial life mixed with each other forming interdependencies between friends and family.


In comparison with other ethnic groups, however, Jews only formed a small percentage of the areas population. Much greater numbers of Polish and German non-Jewish emigrants and their descendants still dominated the East Side neighborhood spaces, alongside a growing African American community. Public Schools became places for children to adapt to American ways while also meeting people of different backgrounds. Public School 32 played a key part in developing Jewish student opportunities beyond the neighborhood. Hyman Arluck attended PS 32 graduating in 1919.

Due to religious restrictions around when observant Jews could work, and the difficulty of obtaining employment with limited language skills, many immigrant Jews preferred to work in family businesses. In these domains, individuals could set their own hours enabling observance of the Jewish Shabbat and religious holidays. Throughout most of Hyman’s childhood, the streetscape was filled with Jewish businesses, especially on William Street. In addition to synagogues, a number of buildings were associated with the Jewish community across the East Side. A Jewish community school, known as the Talmud Torah nestled on Hickory Street and a Jewish settlement house called Zion House had homes on Walnut, Spring, and Jefferson. Eventually Zion House evolved into the Jewish Community Building where Hyman spent his time as a teen.

From 1880 to 1900, the Jewish community grew ten-fold.

By 1904, Eastern-European Jews living to the east of Michigan Avenue comprised 75% of the total community of 10,000 Jews in Buffalo.


Zion House