Yesterday afternoon, on a bit of a whim, I decided to head down to the southern tip of Manhattan, to ferry out to Liberty and Ellis Islands. I’ve been in NYC for nearly 15 years, but had somehow missed that key tourist undertaking previously, and it seemed like it was worth crossing off my list.
I often forget that Manhattan is an island. But as we pulled away, looking back, I felt a twinge of homesickness for those 22 square miles.
Looking ahead, we could see Lady Liberty, holding court over New York Harbor.
The hallmark of great design is something that doesn’t just look beautiful, but something that looks even more beautiful in the context for which it’s designed. Gliding by, the Statue of Liberty is an imposing and amazing sight.
Even better, she offsets the Financial District with impressive balance, particularly considering how much that landscape has changed since 1875.
Strangely, the statue was least imposing from up close. Perhaps it’s the size of the base as compared to the statue, but she actually seemed smaller from feet away than from across a stretch of water.
Still, Liberty Island made for yet another impressive city view.
After admiring for a while, and declining the purchase of Statue of Liberty snow globes, figurines, headpieces, etc., in the large and bustling gift shop, I hopped the next ferry over to Ellis Island.
Ellis was the real purpose of my trip, as my family on both sides (a varied and motley collection of Eastern European Jews) emigrated through Ellis, before settling in NYC.
I tried to imagine what it would have been like for all of them, passing through the Registry Room, where they first became Americans. It kind of made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.
The Registry Room is also where I became a Newman.
On the ride to NYC, my paternal great-grandfather (and the family member, I’m told, who in many ways I most resemble) was still Max Menachem Naumann. He explained as much to the immigration official. Max worked. But Menachem didn’t parse, so the middle name was redacted simply to the letter M. (With a period. Though without standing for anything, apparently.) Similarly, Naumann got Americanized to Newman.
It was through the back doors of the registry room that Max M. Newman headed out into New York life.
You can find him on the American Immigrant Wall of Honor, a monument just behind the museum.
As you can find my maternal great-grandfather, Aaron Turkewitz (in whose memory my mother was given the middle name Ann) and his family.
The names are inscribed onto large metal plaques.
Which are in turn arranged into a large, gracefully curving circle.
Like nearly everything else on Liberty and Ellis Islands, the monument overlooked a wonderful New York skyline view.
Slightly sunburned, I waited in line one more time, to ferry back to my Manhattan home. As the city grew nearer over the choppy harbor surf, I was reminded once again: I really do ♡ NYC.