Chelsea Jewish Tours (CJT) is the first phase of a broader, community-based initiative founded by Dr. Ellen Rovner, the Chelsea Gateway Project. The mission of the Chelsea Gateway Project/Chelsea Jewish Tours is to create a forum for the expression of immigrant experiences by walking through the landscape of Chelsea’s one-time Jewish community. The Chelsea Gateway Project/Chelsea Jewish Tours promotes experiential education as an avenue to community engagement and social justice. Through foot tours of downtown neighborhoods, existing, re-purposed Jewish-related structures, and present-day immigrant projects, CJT invites participants to imagine a beloved community once known as “Little Jerusalem” at the actual sites of Chelsea’s cherished Yiddish vitality.
Chelsea Jewish Tours grows from Ellen’s long-term passion for exploring immigrant stories to re-examine the city’s historic past and vital present. As the third generation of an immigrant family to Chelsea and a cultural anthropologist, she believes that knowing and celebrating our immigrant pasts is integral to building an informed, empowered, and engaged multi-cultural society. To this end, she seeks to engage with community activists, leaders, and artists who are deeply involved with experiential, collaborative social change.
The Chelsea Gateway Project will use immigrant stories and skills to re-examine the city’s historic past, vibrant present, and potential future as the definitive location of the immigrant experience in New England. After a decade of community involvement in Chelsea, Ellen has formed a network of activists, community leaders, and artists who are deeply involved with experiential, collaborative methods of activism.
The Chelsea Gateway Project will join with Temple Emmanuel, the Walnut St. Shul, and the La Colaborativa to work on projects designed to highlight the city’s immigrant pasts and rich history, such as oral histories, artists’ exhibits, performances, collections of material artifacts, tours of the city, community education, and food-based cultural events. In this way, the Chelsea Gateway Project will bring community members and visitors to the city to honor its history as a dynamic, multi-cultural, immigrant stronghold, and a community where, despite the challenges of poverty, discrimination, and hostile federal government policies, Chelsea immigrant groups’ personal aspirations, hard work, and ingenuity continue to re-shape the American story.
Founder Ellen Rovner with her grandchildren in front of Deborah Kass’s “OY/YO” sculpture in Brooklyn. “Yo” refers to the Spanish pronoun for I, as well as the slang greeting, while “Oy” is a Yiddish expression.
With hate and division now on the rise, it is urgent to see our commonalities, what we share, and what brings us together.”– Artist Deborah Kass