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The 28th annual ball of the Irish American Society of Nassau, Suffolk, and Queens, 1959. (Photo courtesy of the The Irish American Society)

Long Island: A Cultural Convergence

New York City is known as the melting pot city, bringing together a plethora of ethnic backgrounds. Long Island is a melting pot of its own, and features a diverse people from all over the world. Depending on which neighborhoods you travel to, you can immerse yourself in a variety of cultural experiences.

Jewish Communities

The Jewish Historical Society is working to set up historical markers around Long Island. (Photo courtesy of the Jewish Historical Society)

Considering the enormous impact that Jewish people have had upon Long Island over the years, it might seem strange to learn that an official organization chronicling their rich history was first founded only a handful of years ago. Brad Kolodny, founder and president of the Jewish Historical Society of Long Island, first established the organization in June of 2021 after having written two books on the Jewish people of Long Island’s yesteryear.

Kolodny wrote his books while researching Jewish immigration from New York City into Long Island. “I also set out to dispel the myth that Jews only came to Long Island after World War II,” he said in an interview with LongIsland.com. “The book basically outlines the fact that there were over 4,000 Jews who lived on Long Island even before the end of the first World War.” The Jewish Historical Society was born out of the fact that Kolodny needed to do a tremendous amount of research for his two books; while doing so, he said he was meeting a great many individuals whose ancestors had moved to Long Island around the turn of the century.

Since its founding, the Historical Society has already accomplished a great deal in preserving not only the culture but the history of Long Island’s Jewish residents. “We have applied for and received grants to put up historical markers, and we’ve already put up one in 2021 that celebrated the 125th anniversary of the first synagogue built on Long Island, which was in Setauket in 1896,” he said. Interested readers can learn more by visiting https://www.jhsli.org/

Irish Communities

(Photo courtesy of Rosemarie Byrne on Facebook)

Irish folks have been prominent members of Long Island since the 1850s. The annual celebration of Saint Patrick’s Day is a widely recognized symbol of the Irish presence in America. The largest celebration of the holiday takes place in New York, where the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade draws an average of two million people. Many people of Irish descent retain a sense of their Irish heritage. Article 2 of the Constitution of Ireland formally recognizes and embraces this fact, stating, “…the Irish Nation cherishes its special affinity with people of Irish ancestry living abroad who share its cultural identity and heritage.”

Various organizations have formed to promote and preserve the art, culture and traditions of Ireland, such as The Irish American Society of Nassau, Suffolk, & Queens, Inc. The organization hosts fundraisers throughout the year, and offers a plethora of activities and events to promote a sense of Irish community in New York. These include a weekly social club, bagpipe and drum lessons, Donny Golden Irish dance lessons, and Irish Step Dancing. The organization is located at 297 Willis Ave. in Mineola. Interested readers can learn more by visiting https://www.irishamericansociety.org/

Italian Communities

Celebration from Long Island after Italy Wins the EURO Cup Final. (Photo courtesy of Reddit.com)

New York City has the largest population of Italian Americans in the United States as well as North America, many of whom inhabit ethnic enclaves in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens, and Staten Island. New York is home to the third largest Italian population outside of Italy. Many of these communities have grown roots in Long Island, in towns such as Westbury, Inwood, and Glen Cove.

The Italian Historical Society of America was founded by John N. LaCorte at a meeting organized by him at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York in 1949. The Society was created at a time when the public perception of the Italian culture had been greatly overshadowed by the notoriety of a number of celebrated criminal personalities of Italian descent. It was John N. LaCorte’s belief that these negative stereotypes could be overcome by popularizing the lives of the many Italians who have made significant contributions to Western Civilization. Interested readers can learn more and get involved by going to https://italianhistorical.org/

Other organizations have been working towards the documentation of Long Island’s Italian neighborhoods, restaurants, stores, and notable landmarks. This includes the Italian Enclaves Historical Society, whose mission is to “preserve and promote the Italian American Enclaves of yesterday, today and tomorrow… Italian enclaves are places where people with heritage from Italy live or once lived. Few things last forever, and in response to this visible disappearance of New York City Italian neighborhoods, we formed the Italian Enclaves Historical Society and saw it as our duty to document what once was.” If you are interested in a full list of prominent Italian neighborhoods, or wish to contribute information of your own, please visit https://italianenclaves.org/

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