In this episode of The Italian American Podcast, we visit the Italian American Museum in Little Italy, New York City. Founder and Director Dr. Joseph V. Scelsa, Ph.D. talks about what Italian immigrants went through and how he is trying to recreate that experience so our generation can experience it. Also, my grandmother will end the episode with a touching story of how her father got lost on his first day of a new job in New York.
“Open my heart and you will see graved inside of it, “Italy.” – Robert Browning
Tweetables (Please Share):
“The more we understand ourselves, the more we understand each other.” – Dr. Scelsa (click to tweet)
“There is a warmth among #ItalianAmericans that not everyone gets to experience.” – Dolores Alfieri (click to tweet)
“Family was first for Italians, but most importantly people were first. That’s what #Italian is.” – Dr. Scelsa (click to tweet)
“Italian immigrants had a deep gratitude to America, the country that helped them raise their families.” – Dolores Alfieri (click to tweet)
“Before we can expect people to respect #ItalianAmericans we must understand ourselves.” – Dr. Scelsa (click to tweet)
“The top thing #ItalianAmericans I grew up with wanted and demanded was RESPECT.” – Dolores Alfieri (click to tweet)
“Most #ItalianAmericans didn’t have or want much, but they wanted respect.” – Dr. Scelsa (click to tweet)
Dr. Joseph Scelsa, Ph.D. is the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Italian American Museum in the heart of New York City’s historic Little Italy. Dr. Scelsa is a fountain of knowledge about Italian and Italian American history and a leader in sharing this knowledge with the world. However, his impressive academic background is not confined to the study of the Italian American experience.
Dr. Scelsa estimates that about as many non-Italian-Americans as Italian-Americans have come to the museum and enjoyed it immensely, which he thinks is wonderful. He explains, “People want to be able to be in touch with their past. And even if it’s not their past, so many people are entering, learning about other people’s past, seeing what America was like before. The more we understand ourselves, the more we understand each other.”
Some of the key points Dr. Scelsa discusses in this episode include:
You can feel a bond between yourself and other Italian Americans.
This is why Dr. Scelsa believes that Italian Americans are so beloved by all people.
- Back in the days, Elizabeth Street was the Sicilian Street and Mulberry Street was the Neopolitan Street.
- Little Italy was one of the safest places to live because the Italians looked out for each other. They were able to keep their doors unlocked. It wasn’t because of the mafia, it was because the Italians watched out for and respected each other greatly.
- The Italian immigrants were very proud people, and they were also very inviting. They would feed their guests before themselves.
- Many Italians saved Jewish people during the Holocaust. They saved these people at terrible risk to their own lives and this information is starting to surface now.
- Family was first for Italians, but most importantly people were first. That’s what Italian is.
- Italian immigrants always said that they were grateful for America and that American was their country.
- The Italian American Museum in NYC is the first Italian American museum in the United States.
- The NYC Little Italy represents all Little Italy’s in the World.
- The museum serves to help people understand who they are, not just Italian Americans.
- Dr. Scelsa recalls the 5-hour dinners at Grandma’s house on Sundays. Sometimes his Irish and Jewish friends enjoyed the dinners more than him.
- Dr. Scelsa mentioned possibly having Sunday dinners at the Italian American Museum.
Resources Mentioned in the Episode:
Anthony Fasano and Dolores Alfieri
Co-Hosts, The Italian American Podcast