David Silver, a native New Yorker, is currently serving as a volunteer docent at the Museum At Eldridge Street. In addition to his being a docent he consults with corporations in the area of leadership. And he developed his own leadership skills and behaviors while serving as a pilot in United State Air Force as a Forward Air Controller during the Vietnam Conflict.
1. How and/or when did you get you hooked on
I have been interested
in history since my undergraduate college years but it was more on a casual
basis rather than as a serious student of history. I remember reading Cornelius
Ryan’s The Longest Day and I think that is what got me hooked on history
especially reading as much about the history of WW II as time allowed.
Throughout these subsequent years my interest in history has expanded to
include the Civil War years and history of NYC.
2. What role
does history play or has it played in your personal life?
For me, it has been
about imagining what my life would have been like during the periods in which I
am reading, especially about living in New York City. My family settled in the
Lower East Side of Manhattan in the early 1900’s. As I continue to read about
the city I walk to areas that are discussed in my readings and see some of the
buildings described in the readings. And in other cases, I visualize what the
area looked like when those buildings existed. And I still discover new sights
3. How is/How was history a
part of your professional life/career?
Part of my interest in
history has been biographies of business leaders. I remembered some of their
lessons learned to guide some of my decisions regarding career direction. I
managed to avoid the pitfalls that they highlighted in their careers and took
actions that fostered their career successes. History has also helped
significantly in my professional life. Organizations, in which I have been part
of, are affected by world events both past and present. Understanding these
events have helped me make decisions when organization change was needed. I
often used history in preparing my business cases to influence the
4. Why is studying/knowing
History repeats itself
one way or another. And there are incidents in history we should not forget
about because we might need to avoid those that caused terrible world events. Understanding
history allows us to put events in perspective. I sometimes have dinner with
friends and their children join us. When the subject of American and world
history is brought up it confounds me that these children, who attend school,
are not able to join in the discussion. And the knowledge of history has us
understand events that have brought about the world, as it is, today. Their failure
in studying and understanding history is an obstacle to having a reasonable
dialogue about current events.
5. What is your favorite
period or aspect of history to learn about and why?
My initial struggle with
history was narrowing my particular area of interest. For awhile, it was about
the history of the U.S.’s involvement in World War II in the Pacific and
Europe. Then my focus turned to the major battles of the Civil War. Next came
biographies of military leaders. Finally, and for the past few years it has
been about the history of New York from the early 1800’s thru 1940. The history
of NYC is of particular interest because many of the men who made America great
were based in NYC. The great banks and railroads have their history in NYC in
the 19th and 20th centuries.
6. How did you get involved
with the Museum at Eldridge and what do you do as docent?
A friend of mine is on
the Board of Directors of the Museum at Eldridge Street. He invited me to the
dedication of the Museum in 2007 and that was my first contact with the Museum.
In the subsequent years I attended a number of events and in 2014 I attended a
fund raising event. At that event the Director of the Museum invited me to
become a docent. I went through the training and the rest is history, so to
speak. As a docent I conduct tours of the Museum. As part of the tour I
describe the history of the congregation that has and continues to worship in
the synagogue that is part of the museum. I help explain about the causes of
the immigration of Russian Jews to the USA and the specifically to the Lower
East Side of Manhattan. Much of my narration focuses on the highlights of the
congregation’s growth and decline and the impact this had on the building…..especially
7. Why is the Museum at
Eldridge an important part of American history?
The Museum is one of the
last symbols of the great immigration of Russian Jews to America in the 19th
and early 20th century. The Lower East side would probably not be as
notable a feature of New York had it not been for the immigration of Eastern
Europeans to the USA. And there are few remaining synagogues in the Lower East
Side that still stand as a testament to the over 2 million Jews that settled in
such a small area of New York.