These traditional Israelites particularly relished opportunities in North End real estate, chicken and beef wholesaling, and retailing.
Examples of buildings which housed such enterprises still exist in the North End today. The Segel building at 18 Cooper Street; the Menorah Products, Inc, Kosher poultry building at 112-114 Fulton Street; and the Greenie Store, the first of the Rabb (Stop & Shop) family groceries at 134 Salem Street are extant and, if plaqued, could serve as reminders of Jewish immigrants' enterprise.
In the context of earning their livings and providing a decent roof over their heads, newly-arrived Eastern European Jewish forebears to today's Jewish-Americans struggled with the same subtext which all Americans face: celebration of one's identity and/or assimilation into prevalent culture.
Two Eastern European Jewish immigrants, who arrived in Boston as youths around the turn of the century, took up the cudgels in this ring.
- Horace Kallen argued that
maintaining a strong Jewish religio-cultural identity was good for Jews and for America (multi-culturalism).
- On the other hand, Mary Antin, rapturously espousing the intellectual and cultural icons of Anglo-Saxon America, visualized immigrants
principally as healthy and successful mix-ins (assimilation).
Antin's writing provided the more detailed portrait of her father's struggles to earn a living in Boston's West and South Ends. She described him as a small retailer whose
vagueries of success and failure were reflected in his opening and closing of at least 3 different shops in Boston's neighborhoods (None of which premises exist today.).
While Kallen and Antin were intellectualizing this subtext, on the North End streets an example of this subtextual conflict was reflected in observance, partial
observance, and non-observance of Shabbat.
In North End retailing, Saturday was the
most profitable commercial day of the week, and Sunday "blue laws," with some exceptions, still were in effect. Jewish retailers were confronted with a variety of choices
among open-for-business hours and/or personal/family Shabbat celebrations.
North End housing demographics changed dramatically with the influx of Eastern European Jews. As Jews
supplanted Irish predecessors in North End tenements, run-down
buildings of 1870s and earlier vintage were sold to Jewish newcomers.
Frequently, 100% purchase money was available through Jewish mortgage brokers representing Anglo-
Saxon 1st mortgage financiers. By requiring that the brokers place 2nd mortgages in their own names, 1st mortgage holders were secure enough to offer 5-6% rates.
Utilizing such readily available mortgage financing; by the 1890s, Jews owned substantial portions of
North End housing and commercial space.
Capitalizing on their ownership, our Eastern European Jewish forebears often either gutted whole buildings and subdivided them into apartments or tore them down for new
Jewish immigrant consumers provided a ready market for kosher chickens and meats. One of the companies formed to satisfy such poultry demand was Menorah Products, Inc. That company's "schlachthaus" (Yiddish vernacular for slaughterhouse) building still stands at 112-114 Fulton Street. Today, it is subdivided into residential condominiums.
Retailers of all sorts of goods needed by Jewish families occupied store fronts on and off Salem Street. In 1892, Solomon and Jennie Rubinowitz (later known as Rabinovich and Rabinovitz) opened their "Greenie Store," a grocery, at 134 Salem Street. The Greenie Store, the first of many Rabb family groceries, survived at that location through 1908. The Rabb family groceries later would culminate in New England's largest
grocery chain, Stop & Shop. Today, their first location is occupied by Bova's bakery.