On October 1, 2016, the Arab American National Museum proudly opened the exhibition Little Syria, NY: An Immigrant Community’s Life & Legacy at our nation’s most storied institution on immigration, the Ellis Island Museum of Immigration. This exhibition presents the rich history of the earliest concentrated Arab immigrant community in the USA, placing the Arab American experience in context with the greater American immigrant narrative. I cannot think of a better time, or a better location, for this exhibition.
Nothing tells the “American story” like Ellis Island, and nothing tells the Arab immigrant story like Little Syria. At the time the Little Syria neighborhood was thriving in New York, “Greater Syria” itself consisted of modern-day Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Palestine – and newly arrived Arab immigrants to New York exemplified this diversity. Choosing to exhibit Little Syria, NY in New York City, on the island where so many Arab immigrants first stepped foot on American soil, demonstrates a commitment and appreciation to our rich and contributory heritage.
At the same time, this exhibit embraces the American values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness despite one’s place of origin, beliefs, race or reasons for making the courageous decision to embark on a new journey and way of life.
This exhibition would not have been possible without the generous support of Arab Americans from across our nation. Many served as advisors, object donors, and financial donors. We are most grateful for their unwavering support.
Little Syria, NY will be on display through January 9, 2016. Over the course of the next three months, we anticipate over 300,000 visitors to the exhibit. We hope you will get a chance to visit.
For more on the exhibit, check out this wonderful article written by Associated Press journalist Jeff Karoub.
Through documents, artifacts and photos, the exhibition tells the story of a Middle Eastern community that once flourished in Lower Manhattan. The show is on view through Jan. 9 in the building where some 12 million immigrants from around the world first set foot in America. And it documents the vanished neighborhood of Little Syria in ways that still resonate, at a time when Syrian refugees and immigrant rights are making headlines.