Chain Letter

“Chain Letter” is a site-specific paper sculpture that was commissioned by The Eldridge Street Project for a show in the 1887 synagogue in summer 2005. The chains are constructed from texts in two languages: a Yiddish dictionary and a Chinese-language volume listing books permitted for publication by Communist censors between 1949 and 1979. “Chain Letter” references some of the reasons that people left their birthplaces for new lives in America. By incorporating both Yiddish and Chinese texts, the work also alludes to the evolution of the Lower East Side/Chinatown neighborhood in which it was installed.

“Chain Letter” consists of 288 strands of handmade paper chains -- half with Chinese on the outside, half with Yiddish. The chains are hung in a pattern that approximates the neighborhood’s evolution, so that the strands on the left side (while facing the sanctuary) are predominantly Yiddish on the outside, while those on the right are mostly Chinese. Yet all the while, the languages are intertwined, noting the shared nature of the immigrant experience.

Special Thanks to:

Alaina Stamatis
Anastasia Teper
Eunice Chough
Jennifer Berger
Mark Wagner

Martin Brown
May Au
Mindy Stricke
Neil Katz
Toby Miller
and the Lower East Side Printshop